Archived Story

Still no dog ordinance after shouting match in Niles Twp.

Published 11:09pm Monday, September 12, 2011

An 80-minute meeting — featuring a shouting match between board members and arguments amongst people in the audience — couldn’t produce an agreement on a proposed Niles Township animal control ordinance at a special meeting of the township board Monday night.
The ordinance, proposed by Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell, would allow the township to have dangerous animals removed from the township. Owners of animals that, after an investigation, are deemed dangerous would be taken to the pound or another approved facility.
A similar ordinance was considered a year and a half ago, but the issue was resurrected last month after a recent incident in which two pit bulls reportedly injured another dog and killed a cat in a township neighborhood. Kidwell said a major issue with the situation was a five-hour wait for a Berrien County Animal Control officer to arrive and take the pit bulls to the animal control facility.
Kidwell said the pit bulls were returned to the owner six hours later, conditional on them being quarantined.
Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt expressed concern in creating an ordinance that would be passed to the county to enforce.
“Do we want an ordinance that animal control will have to enforce?” she asked. “We, the township, don’t have the ability to take the dog somewhere.”
Trustee Dick Cooper agreed.
“We can’t mandate what animal control does,” Cooper said.
Berrien County Animal Control Director Val Grimes, who was in attendance, said the ordinance would be essentially “just dumping a dog on someone else.”
Kidwell was critical of how animal control addressed the situation.
“We can’t depend on the county to take care of all of our problems,” Kidwell said. “Something broke down somewhere.”
Kidwell also argued that if the board doesn’t pass the ordinance, it would be “wasting” taxpayers’ money since the township invested $360 to have the township attorney make revisions to Kidwell’s original draft.
Treasurer Jim Ringler said he believes the ordinance is “duplicating something animal control already does.”
“I’m sorry, Jim. I put my faith in animal control,” Ringler said to Kidwell.
Kidwell retorted: “The system failed, period.”
A shouting match between Ringler and Kidwell ensued.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, also in attendance at the special meeting, disagreed with Kidwell’s assessment of animal control as well.
“Are they (animal control) perfect? No. But they are doing a heck of a job,” Bailey said, adding that the unit has taken 11 calls after-hours in the past month alone.
At the end of the meeting, the board agreed to form a committee, consisting of Kidwell, Cooper and trustee August Kuehn, to meet again with Grimes and the township attorney to re-examine the proposed ordinance.

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  •!/kbtonkin Kevin Tonkin

    I hear buchanan is having dog problems too. Perhaps instead of coming up with duplicate laws, enforcements and expenses someone should get on the county to do their job! Where are our county commissioners?

  • Dave Fisher

    The confrontational style of the current Supervisor sure seems to create plenty of headlines, litigation, and a fair amount of angst. I wonder if a more tactful and low key approach might not yield better results.

    Sure seems like quite a bit of ado over somebody probably working with very limited fiscal resources (animal control) not reacting quick enough.

  • dylan_c22

    Again, Vern, you seem to confused. The Supervisor is the confrontational one??? Apparantly you have not been to any board meetings at all. As far as the litigation and angst goes, you must have missed the news when a Berrien County Judge ruled that your beloved Ringler, along with Durm-Hiat and the township attorney DID violate the Open Meetings Act when they were trying to cover up the investigation into Mr Ringlers Harrassment of the township zoning clerk. If you missed that story, its still on the Niles Star website. Yeah, who cost the township money in that one, and why does the township attorney suddenly resign after the ruling? Isn’t it all starting to come into focus a little better for you now? The checks and balances that are supposed to keep government in check has been trampled on in the township for too long. Now that there is a supervisor who actually does something down there and looks into things and doesn’t get intimated by the Kidwell Hater Club’s members, things are starting to come to light. Instead of all this hatred you have, you should join the MAJORITY of the township residents and SUPPORT Mr. Kidwell and all the good that he has been able to accomplish in the hostile enviroment he has to deal with everyday.

  •!/kbtonkin Kevin Tonkin

    Vern, it’s called a vendetta and it’s costing all of us taxpayers! Kidwell has done some good thing but this vendetta must stop. It has been going on since before the primary election when the township banned the police department. Ringler is still an employee of the township despite the policy of the township and he is allowed to have a closed meeting. The meeting was closed to discuss personnel matters which included him and others to my knowledge. A judge disagreed but a prosecutor must make charges and he said no. The township always had dirty laundry but airing in it public does not help. Keep it going so we can pay more. 2012 is next year.

  • dylan_c22

    Very interesting post, Mr. Tonkin. You state that “Ringler is still an employee of the township despite the policy of the township” and “A judge disagreed but a prosecutor must make charges and he said no.” First of all, the private investigation into Ringler stated the board members are NOT township employees, which is why Ringler “didn’t violate a policy.” I have said this before. Ringler was only found to not have violated a township policy, because the policy does not apply to board members. If ANY “EMPLOYEE” of the township had done the same thing as him, they would have violated the policy. Second of all, you are mistaken on what the judge ruled. The prosecutor only handles CRIMINAL charges. The open meeting act that a judge ruled WAS violated does not have anything to do with the prosecutor. The judge ruled, the township lost, and the person who filed suit will be getting a check from the township because of it. And in case you are still unaware, the civil suits against Ringler, Durm-Hiat, and the township attorney is still pending. If it was a frivolous suit or needed the prosecutors blessing, the judge would have already thrown it out. PLEASE be sure to check all your facts before posting comments. It is one thing to air dirty laundry in public. It is another thing to post things that are only half-truths. And when it comes to GOVERNMENT and TAXPAYER money, NOTHING should be hidden form the public, dirty laundry or not. Your mindset of keeping dirty laundry a secret when you are in a public seat is what has created the monster that lurks at the Township Hall.


    This past Saturday; One man was attacked by two loose large Pitbulls,several hours later Two others suffered substantial injuries by these same loose animals…
    We have three dogs and keep them in a fenced yard or on leach when walking them in the city of Buchanan.
    Curiously I have not seen any reporting in any local news media on these attacks, after seeing first hand the Severe damage caused to these people- I am in favor of some meaningful “Danderous Dog” ordinances- These people are lucky to have survived….

  •!/kbtonkin Kevin Tonkin

    Half truth? Nothing in my post is half truth Dylan. You are just reading between the lines where no in-between-the-lines exist! Where did I say the judge was wrong? I said the prosecutor must file charges (granted criminally and there was no criminal intent) so he didn’t. I am not a lawyer but neither are you so don’t pretend you are by chastising me like you are one. So, tell me about the civil suit that the township tax payers must pay someone who was not financially harmed by the actions of a board by violating an open meetings act. And of course I do not have to check my facts out before posting anything – Editor Dylan. Anyone can post lies – including you and me.

  • dylan_c22

    I had no intention of striking a nerve or offending you the way that I must have. In my post I never once accused you of stating half-truths. I simply stated there is no reason for them. I also simply stated the FACT that the township is indeed responsible for the court and attorney fees and a $500 fine to the person that filed the lawsuit on the open metings act volation. If you dispute it, then feel free to find out on your own. Like I did. I never said the civil suit against the individual board members would be come from township funds. I only said the case is still pending. I also responded to your statement that the prosecutor said “NO” to the open meeting act violation. Your post made it sound like the prosecutor is a higher authority than a judge. The judge ruled it was a violation. Again, it doesn’t matter what the proecutor’s opinion was. Finally, I was not pretending to be an attorney nor was I claiming you are one. I was just stating facts. I make a decision to not post garbage and misleading information on these posts. You are correct though, I could post lies and half-truths like many others do on here. Thankfully, I choose not to stoop to the level of some others on here. Please continue to post your opinion on things you really do not know much about. Trust me, it makes you appear that much more crazy and bitter about not being elected supervisor.

  •!/kbtonkin Kevin Tonkin

    LOL, thanks for your permission Dylan to allow me to keep posting my opinions and facts. I did not dispute the costs to the township for the violation – just the necessity because the taxpayers will pay it – not any board member. You were actually sounding a little civil until the last sentence. I am certainly more qualified in township matters with my 24 years of experience than most (including you) and not at all bitter to have lost the supervisor’s position. In fact, I cannot be happier. Things are going just as I predicted. Too many years of the same old thing and a supervisor that was not with it while there were too many cooks in the kitchen. That is why I supported a strong township manager position. So I would win and try to change things or lose and get out. Only thing was that in order to change things you need to replace all of the board or work with them which Kidwell has not done well and visa-versa. Trust me I am sympathetic with Kidwell as he is doing some of the same things that I would have done which is why some of the board chose Spurlock over me. The funny thing is that the roles are reversed now – I am in the shoes of the anti-board and Kidwell and his supporters are taking the criticism he once dished out. 2012 should be very interesting with the possibility of three or more open or contested seats.

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