(9/29) The town's Community Park tennis courts will have a new use for the next few months.
At Monday's meeting, the Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to allow John and Nancy Maschmeier of Guiding Eyes for the Blind use of the courts to train seeing eye dogs.
Under the town's ordinance, all dogs must be on a leash at all times. Mayor Martin Burns introduced the item at the meeting by saying that the Maschmeiers want to comply with the ordinance, but there are times they need to let the dogs "go nuts," and that means letting them off the lead.
John Maschmeier said he and his wife are requesting the exception only for the tennis courts because they are fenced and gated. It would allow the couple to bring the dogs into the park on a leash, close the fence and let the dogs loose. He said it is the only time they would be off the leash.
The trainers said they began training their first puppy in January and plan to have him for about 18 months, until May or June or 2010.
Commissioner Glenn Muth asked Maschmeier what they will do if the board doesn't grant the request.
"(The dogs) won't run as much," he said. There are abandoned tennis courts in Frederick City where Maschmeier used to take the dogs.
"It's a no-brainer to me," Burns said. "It's for a public purpose, to help those in need." He suggested the trainers try to use the tennis court for three months and officials will see how the progress is going.
Commissioner Wayne Hooper agreed with Burns, saying it's a place where the dogs can run and has gates.
Commissioner Ron Terpko suggested using the town softball fields. He said the grassy, gated field seems like it would be more conducive to the dogs.
Maschmeier said he is requesting the tennis court because of the availability of a fence and gate to close the dogs in while they exercise. He also prefers the size of the courts.
He said cleanup is not a concern. "One of the things we train the dogs to do is go to the bathroom on command," he said. "Nobody will ever know where our dogs have gone to the bathroom."
Police Chief Greg Eyler said he doesn't have any issues with it. "It is a special circumstance and I don't think it's going to be a problem," he said.
The police use common sense when enforcing ordinances, Eyler said.
"If you guys deny it, I'm offering my backyard," he joked with the board. "It's fenced off, but it has a pool."
Code Enforcement Officer Kenny Oland brought up the idea of a previously discussed dog park in town. If chain link and fence posts are available, Oland said that could be another option. "All we have to do is find a place," he said. "That way we wouldn't be in this position."
Lookingbill suggested putting a sign up at the tennis courts explaining the Maschmeiers are using the area for training by special permission. "That way people know what's going on," he said.
"I think it's a great idea," Burns said.
The board unanimously approved the request.