MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council spent about half an hour on Sept. 3 reviewing the history of peafowl in the area and hearing from the public and councilors on the issue.
At the Aug. 20 council meeting, a resident complained of the noise the peacocks make and wanted to discuss solutions to the problem.
The council chamber on Sept. 3 was full, and 10 people submitted comment cards; all were about the peacocks in the Gentle Woods area.
A staff report on how the issue was discussed in 2014 was included in the agenda and is available on the city’s website.
Monmouth Mayor Cec Koontz asked Scott McClure, city manager, to give an overview of the history of peafowl in the area and how the city has responded.
“The crux of the issue is we have peafowl in that neighborhood, and it’s gone through interesting cycles over time,” he said. “Reaching way back in history, it was a smaller herd at one point. I understood that raccoons took care of management of the issue, and that was a natural thing.”
The raccoons died off, McClure said.
Around 2006, the city trapped peafowl and relocated them to farms, he said.
That seemed successful, but the population grew again, he said.
The last time concerns about too many peafowl were brought up was in 2014, McClure said.
He said at that point, one of the neighbors said they would take care of it.
The person, or group of people, managed eggs, trapped and relocated some of the birds, he said.
“Since then, we haven’t heard anything really one way or the other,” McClure said. “It did crop up at the last meeting. And then interestingly enough, when this discussion was going on, had the newspaper coverage, staff report being done, we found out the neighbor was still managing the issue.”
McClure said when people call the city with complaints about skunks, raccoons or porcupines, the city does not respond.
In 2014, “the council said it’s not really our job to get involved in,” McClure said. “It’s a neighborhood issue. The neighbors are taking care of it.”
Koontz clarified that the only animal control the city does is for loose dogs.
Koontz, who was a councilor in 2014, asked city attorney Lane Shetterly about the liability the city may face if it takes responsibility for the peafowl.
“Any time you take responsibility for something you also incur a liability or at least risk of liability,” he said. “In terms of animal regulation, we do prohibit ownership of certain kinds of animals.”
Koontz said there was not planned action for Sept. 3, it was an opportunity for people to let them know how they feel.
Some of the people who spoke were longtime residents in the area in question, some were new and some just visited the neighborhood to visit the peacocks.
Everyone who spoke, did so in favor of leaving the situation as it is.
Elizabeth Wolf, a veterinary technician, spoke about euthanasia since it was brought up by another resident of the area as a possible solution.
“Literally translated euthanasia means good death and nothing about this situation leads me to believe anything of the sort,” she said. “It’s a routine part of my life because it has to be ... I have more than a few times felt the last heartbeat of an animal being euthanized against my fingertips. It changes you. Permanently.”
She said she could not fathom the flippant treatment of the topic by some people.
“No matter how insignificant a life it may seem to some people, unless you have witnessed a true final breath of a living thing, you can’t honestly stand in judgment of something who’s only crime is existing without a permit to be,” she said.
Dan Farnworth, who has lived near Olive and Craven for 12 years, said he is part of a handful of people in the neighborhood working to maintain a small number of birds.
At this point, he said, there are four adult peafowl and three chicks.
The position council took in 2014 was to not actively manage “that which doesn’t really come under most city control,” Koontz said.
“The discussion about euthanasia,” Koontz said. “That was a suggestion, potentially a request, from a neighbor who was having a different experience than those expressed here.”
Beltz gave a tearful comment.
“It breaks my heart to think that it was reported that we had any desire to euthanize the peafowl,” Beltz said. “I have two dogs. I am animal lover. I have held a dog when it died. Someone came to us and asked us to consider this. We asked the city manager to tell us the history. We never considered euthanizing the peafowl. Please don’t think that’s who we are. That is not who your city council is.”
Councilor Jon Carey said the person who spoke at the Aug. 20 meeting expressed a genuine concern.
“While I was not particularly impressed with the substance of his concern, I was impressed with the genuineness of it,” Carey said.
He said he thinks the people within the neighborhood and without were pretty clear about their position.
“That being said, I don’t think we ought to be inclined to stifle someone that comes in and has a concern about something that might be popular to other people,” Carey said.
Councilor Chris Lopez said he agreed with Carey and Beltz.
He said he appreciated the community feedback and that he watched video of the Aug. 20 meeting.
“I do think that there were perhaps some flippant remarks made by councilors,” Lopez said. “There are times when a measure of humor is sometimes the only way to get through certain things. And it’s clear that that was perhaps uncalled for.”
Koontz said there weren’t as many people in the room at the last meeting.
“You can watch it back,” she said. “How things get reported and how things snowball in discussions, particularly in our social media environment, and I feel that it is unfortunate that some folks have taken, without full understanding of the situation, have made presumptions about their friends and neighbors. Maybe said some things that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have said.”
She said the person who complained about the peafowl was “heartfelt.”
“The jokes that may have been made up here were not intended with any malice, so I hope folks can forgive those comments,” Koontz said. “Those of us who have been through it before, probably took it a little lightly particularly.”
She said every five years, she’ll make it a proactive agenda item so new councilors have an opportunity to understand the history of the area’s peafowl.