9/9/2011 11:59:00 AM Town Council introduces ordinance to allow hunting within town limits
Ken Hedler Special to the Tribune
A new state law that takes away jurisdiction of hunting within municipal boundaries from police chiefs prompted the Town Council Thursday night to introduce an ordinance amendment.
The ordinance amendment is intended to comply with Senate Bill 1334, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law April 29. The law went into effect July 20.
Under the new law, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission establishes open season subject to hunting and fishing laws, and commission rules and orders.
The bill preempts the former authority of chiefs of police to approve or close areas within municipal boundaries to "lawful hunting with firearms," Lt. James Edelstein of the Prescott Valley Police Department stated in a staff report.
The bill also preempted local ordinances, rules or regulations that limit the "taking" of wildlife during an open season, Edelstein wrote.
However, cities and towns may continue to restrict the discharge of firearms within a quarter-mile of a "occupied structure," which includes houses and buildings. It also prohibits the use of firearms or other hunting equipment when that equipment is not being used for lawful hunting.
"This is another one of those things where the Senate is taking away local control," Mayor Harvey Skoog commented.
The council voted 7-0 to introduce the amendment after a brief discussion that included Edelstein's presentation. The amendment returns for council consideration and final adoption Sept. 22.
Edelstein said hunting will not be allowed in areas where it would endanger public safety.
Prohibited areas will include the Iron King Trail off Glassford Hill Road, Town Attorney Ivan Legler said before the meeting.
Police officials have met with representatives from Game and Fish to seek cooperation in administering the new requirements to accommodate valid hunting while ensuring the safety of Prescott Valley residents, according to Edelstein. He added his department plans to issue a news release to educate the public about the new law.
Edelstein and several of his peers were on hand earlier in the meeting to pay respect to Police Chief Bill Fessler for his promotion ceremony. Town officials announced Aug. 8 that Fessler was being promoted from commander and interim chief.
Fessler had been serving as interim chief since March 8 after James Maxson retired from the job that he had held for three years.
"This is right. This is just. This is well done," Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye said during the ceremony for Fessler.
As chief, Fessler oversees a department with 71 employees and an annual budget of $7.2 million, according to the town's website. He said he earns $114,000 a year, and receives a uniform and vehicle allowance.