By Michelle Key
A motion to change the city’s animal ordinance was introduced for the first reading during Opelika’s city council meeting last week. The change would allow the discharging of firearms within the city limits in order to shoot nuisance animals under strict conditions. The change stems mainly from a flock of turkey vultures that are nesting behind and near the Calhoun Tennis Center and is adjacent to Opelika Middle School. According to a letter from City Attorney Guy Gunter, the vultures are adversely affecting the education setting and may cause problems such as: spreading disease through their droppings, damage to the buildings, offensive odors, noise and may frighten or annoy the children.
Opelika City School Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors has consulted with biologists at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Wildlife Services, which is a program of the USDA, have advised Neighbors that the most effective method of battling flocks of turkey vultures is to hang effigies of the birds upside down but they do not recommend shooting large numbers of the birds. According to the letter from Gunter, only a few of the birds would be shot and the carcasses would be strung high in the trees to frighten the remaining flock away.
These birds are federally protected as a migratory bird and a federal permit would be required to legally shoot them and would only be allowed if the birds have been determined to be a true nuisance to the community.
The proposed changes to the ordinance would create a new exception to the rule that states it is unlawful to discharge a firearm within the city limits. The shooting of nuisance birds or animals would only be allowed under the supervision of the police department and would only be performed by skilled operators who hold the appropriate permits, licenses and accreditations. All federal, state and municipal rules and regulations must be followed as well. According to Gunter, the proposed ordinance changes will not allow “carte blanche authority” for people to shoot and kill vultures or other animals.
The proposed changes are likely to be voted on at the next city council meeting which will be on Feb. 2.
Also during the council meeting, Mayor Gary Fuller recognized Opelika High School as a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Mission: CubeSat National Challenge Finalist. According to information received from OCS the CTE Mission: CubeSat is a national challenge to build technical skills for careers in space and beyond. The U.S. Department of Education invited high schools across the country to bring space missions to students by designing and building CubeSat prototypes. Ninety-Four high school teams submitted proposals and only five were picked as finalists. Opelika High School is one of the five finalists and will be working in collaboration with Columbus High School in Columbus, Georgia to complete the mission. Opelika High School CTE/STEM students will have the primary responsibility of building the CubeSat and its subsystems. Columbus High School will lead the payload and launch efforts. In the spring of 2021, OHS will launch the CubeSat on a high-altitude weather balloon to collect the necessary performance data to advance the TRL of these untested magnetometer cores.
OHS Junior Kyler Mitchell was recognized by Fuller for his participation in the program.
“What we as Opelika High have been challenged to do is to make a CubeSat and prove how effective a magnetometer can be,” Mitchell said. “We are trying to prove to big companies like NASA, Boeing and SpaceX that the CubeSat is a viable and worthwhile product to use.”
OCS Engineering Robotics teacher Brenda Howell is overseeing the project.
“I knew this would be a wonderful experience, a wonderful opportunity for our Opelika students to get to design, build and fly a satellite model,” Howell said. “I knew that creating experiences like this and what we do with our robotics team are part of the workforce development that we are striving for.”
In other business, the council:
- authorized an application for an Alabama Historic Preservation Grant.
- approved the purchase of Okta and BeyondID Cloud Management software/technology.
- reappointed Angela George, Chris Anthony and Wilbert Payne to the Board of Zoning Adjustments for terms ending Feb. 11, 2024.
The next council meeting will be held on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in the municipal court building located at 300 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Opelika. A work session will be held prior to the meeting and both the work session and the meeting are open to the public. Citizens interested in making public comments can do so during the citizens communication part of the meeting. Comments are limited to five minutes or less.