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Council discusses chickens, harm reduction letter

KINGWOOD — Chickens and the harm reduction letter of support were topics of discussion at the Tuesday evening meeting of the Kingwood Town Council.

Beginning in January, the State of West Virginia implemented licenses for harm reduction programs to legally provide syringes. A requirement of the new law is that county commissions and city councils in the areas syringes are to be dispensed must supply a letter of agreement for the program.

During the discussion about the letter of agreement, Councilman Michael Livengood suggested the possibility of providing the letter and allowing the program to operate in Kingwood quarterly.

“If there is a problem we could shut it down,” he said.

Mayor Jean Guillot said he didn’t want to get to the point of having to shut the program down.

“When she (Laura Jones, executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right) was here, she could tell us how many people turned in needles but couldn’t tell us how many needles was given out,” Guillot said. She said the average person was shooting up 10 to 12 times a day using a new needle each time. If 34 people shot up 10 times a day using a new needle each time that would result in 340 needles per day or 124,100 needles per year.”

At the previous meeting referred to by Guillot, Jones said the Preston County program was in place from August 2018 until December 2021. She said during that time, 34 clients signed up for the program; 151 client visits were made to the site; 111 naloxone (NARCAN) kits were given out; 3,110 syringes were returned; and 26 clients were tested for HIV and HCV.

Jones did not have the number of syringes that were dispensed. She said a client can get up to 100 needles during a visit.

“During one full year it was in operation our city was littered with needles,” Councilman Josh Fields said. “They were in the park, on the benches, and in play yards. The problem is, they end up in areas frequented by children.”

Fields said he was glad the county commission approved the program because that was not shutting it down.

Needles were not the only problem reported by Kingwood residents.

“Rotruck-Lobb had people trying to use their internet,” Guillot said. “There was someone sleeping on the porch at The Inn.”

“[City residents] were scared to death it was so bad — and I would be back there (to their homes) the next day,” former Police Chief Charley Haney said during the previous meeting. “I’d get calls from the school, churches and from people who had people sleeping on their porches and looking in their windows.”

Council unanimously voted not to provide the letter of agreement.

In other business, two Kingwood residents, Susan Ramey and Tarrell Reis, spoke in favor of keeping chickens within the city limits.

Currently, Ordinance 90.7, Maintenance of Prohibited Animals and Fowl, states “No person, being the owner, lessor or occupant of any lot or parcel of land within the city shall keep, harbor or maintain, or knowingly permit to be kept, harbored or maintained any animal or fowl prohibited in the city by § 90.06 upon any such lot or parcel of land, or neglect or refuse to remove or abate the nuisance occasioned by the keeping and maintaining of such animal or fowl upon any such lot or parcel of land within 24 hours after such person has knowledge or the existence of such nuisance, or within 24 hours after service of notice thereof in writing from the City Council.”

According to Ordinance 90.6 “No person shall keep, harbor or maintain or knowingly permit to be kept, harbored or maintained within the city any domestic fowl or pigeon or any swine or other animal including, but not limited to, cattle, horses, mules, ponies or other animals which cannot be or ordinarily are not kept and maintained as house pets.”

“About 10 years ago my kids got some chickens around Easter time,” Reis said. “I understand you don’t want them out front, they are for back yards. The chickens don’t hurt anything, they make less noise than cats and dogs. They are a good way to teach children responsibility. My daughter took care of them. They are pets and have names.”

Ramey also spoke fondly of her family’s chicken friends.

“My daughter and son-in-law had to get rid of theirs,” Ramey said, choking back tears. “They just had a few chickens — they had names and they took care of them. Watching them through the window was like having an aquarium.”

Reis said his neighbors don’t object to his chickens. He said they are fenced in and one neighbor takes care of them when his family goes on vacation.

“Don’t make me have to call my daughter at college and tell her her chickens are gone,” he said.

“Go to Key West there’s chickens everywhere,” Reis added. “It’s a $500 fine if you touch one and $1,000 if you kill one.”

Key West’s feral chickens are a tourist attraction.

No further action was taken.

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