Tensions continue in Hartland

Published 9:26 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

City council discusses cat issues


HARTLAND —The number of cats at a Hartland home is continuing to cause division in the community.

The issue was addressed in an article Wednesday in the Tribune and at Monday’s Hartland City Council meeting. The article covered the number of cats resident Kim Jameson has. She is accusing the city of improperly limiting the number of cats she can have in her home. Jameson said she has 10 cats. The city said she has more.

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The 10-minute discussion during the meeting included a brief back-and-forth dialogue between Hartland resident Shanda Meyer and Mayor Deb Flatness.

Meyer asked Flatness how she would respond to accusations made against her in the article. In it, Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said Flatness suggested the cats could be shot or crushed to death with an excavator.

“We made an agreement with the Humane Society that covers the state way back in August of 2016, and that agreement has been in effect since,” Flatness said.

Meyer then urged Flatness to resolve the issue.

“Will this finally get over and done with?” she said. “Because I’ve lived here for 10 years, and that won’t change. You cannot change mental illness by any means. You can either learn to accept it or move on with your effing lives.”

Numerous people have accused Jameson of being mentally ill. Jameson has denied those allegations.

“We’re working towards a solution here,” Flatness said. “Even if we have to repeat the solution more than once. We’re doing the best we can to address this problem that affects a lot of people.

“And I understand that the mentally ill person needs consideration, but I don’t think the whole city should be held hostage by that person either.”

Meyer told Flatness the issue is casting the city in a bad light.

“It’s not being held hostage by one person,” Meyer said. “This whole situation has affected the whole community, and it’s tainted the community again for the umpteenth time. It’s getting old.”

Flatness told Meyer the city will address the problem until it is resolved.

“It’s just the way it is,” Flatness said.

Albert Lea City Council late last month approved allowing Albert Lea police to conduct search warrants on issues regarding long grass, refuse, junk vehicles and animal control issues in Hartland.

Hartland resident Ginger Fonza took issue with the way the Tribune portrayed the city in the article.

“I thought our city was portrayed wrong,” she said.

“I feel that the neighbors that live here that have dealt with this situation for years should be heard. We weren’t asked a dang question.”

Fonza said she has had to deal with an excess of cat feces because of Jameson’s actions.

“Why should I have to protect myself because 30 cats are running around the dang yard, my yard, and the city’s property because they’re not home where they belong,” she said.

Jameson said last month the cats she has now remain on her property.

The city of Hartland has filed a lawsuit against Jameson for not following the agreement.  A June 18 hearing date is scheduled for summary judgment against Jameson for violating the agreement.

“It’s been a problem,” Flatness said. “And we’re trying hard, obviously, and dealing with the negative input and the negative coloration of what we’re doing as well. But we’re moving forward.”

On Wednesday, Hartland City Councilor Linda Pederson said 10 skunks have gotten under the building of a local business owner because Jameson feeds cats in two locations close to the building.

“He gets to smell that all the time now because it just doesn’t go away,” she said. “We have another business owner that took a customer out to see a piece of equipment he wanted to sell, and what does he find but a towel under his equipment with cat dishes with food and milk in them.”

Pederson said in two weeks, a Hartland woman used a live trap to try to catch a skunk caught two skunks, a possum, a rat and two cats, which were later taken by Jameson, who also took the cage, Pederson said.

“A county deputy was called, and he was asked to arrest her for theft and trespassing on private property,” she said. “The deputy retrieved the cage but would not do anything about the theft. People do not want food for cats put on their property.”

After the meeting, Meyer said the issue over the number of cats Jameson has on her property has been “a constant thing, over and over again.”

“It’s been going on way too long,” she said.

Meyer said Jameson and the city need to reach an agreement. She said the situation involves ongoing bullying.

“There’s many people in this town that have more than the pet ordinance part of it, and there’s a lot of people that are scared,” Meyer said. “They don’t want to get rid of either their pets, or they’re being pet parents and wanting to think about that they have to get rid of their pets, and they’re in fear.”

Meyer said the ordinance should be adaptable, “because one bad apple technically has ruined the town, and that’s how some people are seeing it.”

She said she has eight cats at her residence and described herself as a “pet parent.”

“I have to live in fear now, too, because am I going to be the next one targeted?” she said.

“They’re all my kids. I don’t have no kids. They’re all my kids.”

Meyer said she has thought about moving from Hartland because of the issue.

“I would like to live in a town that used to be what it was when we first moved here — nice, quiet and peaceful,” she said. “And now it’s just — kind of makes me want to think about moving every time I come to a council meeting.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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