Halloween will go on as usual in Hillsdale this year.
The Hillsdale City Council addressed concerns about trick-or-treating amidst the COVID-19 pandemic but there was no debate about allowing the holiday to continue as usual. Mayor Adam Stockford said it wasn’t in the city’s jurisdiction to cancel the holiday.
“It is not a city-sanctioned event,” Stockford said. “It is a national holiday. All we can do is provide suggested hours. We would like people to be safe as always.”
Councilmember Ray Briner encouraged people to find alternative ways to distribute goodies or to consider not participating if they feel unsafe.
“Some people have made some chutes for Halloween candy so that there’s no actual contact. If people don’t want to participate, they don’t have to. It’s up to the person whether or not they want to do it,” Briner said.
The council also discussed the ongoing feral cat issue.
Many members of the council have received numerous complaints from concerned citizens about wild cats attacking birds in their areas, defecating under porches and in flower beds, and causing other troubles in the neighborhood.
The proposal of a feeding ban on the feral cats brought many concerned citizens to the meeting including members of various animal shelters and veterinary clinics from the surrounding areas. Many residents defended their right to take care of the animals on their property and called the proposed ban unethical and inhumane.
“We’re called to love God and love one another and to be good stewards,” David Hamilton said. “We’re not called to make a pristine environment.”
According to Jenny German of SnipNow, a nonprofit that spays and neuters cats, the ideal solution is a Trap Neuter Release program.
“There are problems, but the answer is not having feeding bands,” German said. “They will find food. This breeds parasites, sickness, and rescues will be inundated with calls for help. We have three spay and neuter programs that do cats in Hillsdale. I would advocate more TNR.”
Jan Negeldinger of the Branch County Humane Society said that she wants to help Hillsdale with the problem but to cease feeding them is not the way to do it.
“We love Hillsdale. We love Hillsdale County. Hillsdale College students have a GOAL Program and they’ve raised money to space and neuter. There are places that are resources,” Negeldinger said.
City Manager David Mackie said that the proposed feeding ban was a way to prompt discussion on the issue. Stockford said he was glad it was on the agenda as the educational information presented was helpful in determining how to deal with the problem.
“I don’t see how we can legislate a problem like this away. We need to help people be more conscious of the issue,” Stockford said.
Other council members agreed that introducing TNR education was the best way to curb the problem. Councilmember William Morrisey recalled when he worked on a spay and neuter bill for a state senator in New Jersey.
“I have some experience with this,” Morrisey said. “They can trap cats and have them spayed or neuter. There are problems with feral cats, but we don’t want our police officers chasing down cats.”
The discussion ended without any legislative action taking place. The council agreed that education of the public would help with the feral cat issue in the long term.
City Council meetings take place the first and third Monday of each month.