By KIMBERLY A. EVANS
For Union County HAWK
CLARK — In a packed meeting room at the Clark Municipal Building, members of the Clark Council approved an amendment to an existing ordinance regarding wildlife feeding. The ordinance, which was met with both strong support and opposition from township residents, makes it unlawful to feed and leave food out indefinitely for wildlife or stray animals on public or private property. It was further stated that there has been a significant increase in residents leaving fruits, vegetables and other human food out on public or private properties for a prolonged period of time, and that as a result throughout the municipality there has been a noticeable increase in rats, deer and other disease-carrying, undomesticated animals.
Many Clark residents were concerned about undomesticated cats in the area that rely on food being left out for them, while many others were concerned about the impact indefinite feedings have on residents and property, noting a significant increase in deer ruining gardens and carrying ticks as well as rats populating neighborhoods.
According to the ordinance, a wild animal includes deer, fox, raccoons, opossum, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, mice, rats, bats and waterfowl.
Gail Baldassarre, from Whippany, addressed the governing body. She said she was very familiar with Clark, noting that her parents had lived in the township for 30 years. Ms. Baldassarre spoke about offering to help Clark start and maintain a Trap-Neuter-Return program like she has done successfully in Parsippany, Whippany and Livingston.
She said that in her experience, fundraisers to pay for the programs have been highly successful, as there are many concerned citizens looking to help address the problem of an overpopulation of stray cats. She added that the program does help sick cats that are found, and that if the cats are too ill and cannot be treated, they are euthanized.
Ms. Baldassarre noted that feeding stray cats was a portion of the program. She stated that the “feeders” go to places where the cats are, bringing cat food only and water for the cats. The feeders give the cats a period of about 10 minutes to eat and then clean up the leftover cat food and leave the water. She said that this would happen three times a day.
Members of the governing body, including Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, expressed strong interest in learning more about the program. They worked with Ms. Baldassarre after the meeting to set up a meeting to learn more in order to incorporate a plan for the township. It was noted that an amendment to the ordinance will be drafted in time for the governing body’s September meeting. The mayor noted that it was important to address the problem of wildlife over-population to help alleviate the vermin problem in Clark immediately.
The only no vote on the ordinance was cast by Councilman Brian Toal, who said he wanted to learn more about the TNR program first.
In other business, the Clark Council unanimously voted to approve a $750,000 bond ordinance for public improvements and replacements or new machinery and new automotive vehicles for the township. This includes new police vehicles and rescue gear. It was further noted that included in the improvements is a heating and air-conditioning unit for the Clark Public Library. It was announced that a $228,700 grant was applied for and received from the State Library Board for the HVAC unit.
The next Clark Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m.
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