OTTAWA — On Monday, members of Ottawa’s village council continued discussions on a subject that has plagued other nearby communities: feral cats and how to deal with the issue. For months, village personnel have received complaints about a flourishing feral cat population on the village’s west side, an area estimated at roughly six square miles. While the topic of a number of council discussions, no clear plan to address the problem had yet to develop. To that end, council invited local veterinarian Dr. Ron Baldridge to weigh in on the problem.

“I’ve done a little bit of research on how other communities have dealt with it, what’s worked and what hasn’t,” Baldridge told council. “What it boils down to, I think you really only have one choice from a public relations stand-point as well as devising a program to get things under control. What works best is TNR: Trap, Neuter and Return.”

Through a TNR program, feral animals are trapped in live traps and ferried to a nearby facility where they are neutered. They are then returned to where they were trapped and released.

“The reason this works,” Baldridge said, “is that cats are territorial. So if you take and sterilize cats in a given area, they maintain a perimeter. What happens then is that they’ll keep other cats away. If you just capture and euthanize, you take that cat out and two others come in and set up a territory. You take one cat out of Ottawa, you’re going to get one or two back in.”

In addition to ultimately resolving a feral cat overpopulation problem, Baldridge said that neutering also eliminates those behaviors that make feral cats such a nuisance: fighting, marking and mating vocalizations.

Having said that, Baldridge described TNR as a “never ending program”, an effort of years. Citing a Tufts University study, Baldridge told council, once 35 percent of the population is sterilized through a constant and consistent program, the population will have stabilized within 11 years.

“You’re going to see an immediate effect,” Baldridge added. “But, again, don’t think it’s something your going to do for three months and it’s going to fix the problem.”

Addressing the economic side of the issue, Baldridge said that TNR is cheaper than euthanization and that there are a number of grants available from animal rights and humane organizations to help offset costs. He estimated, given his clinic’s personnel’s decision to donate their time, neuters at $30 per animal and spays at $50.

As part of the program, Baldridge advised council about the need for ordinances advising the public that should their cat be trapped, it will be sterilized. These ordinances, Baldridge said, protect the village and the veterinarians from legal action.

“I spent my whole Sunday afternoon reading about cats,” Council President David Michel said. “Everything I read goes right along with what you’re saying. There’s nobody that recommends euthanizing cats. They all say this is the program that in the long run works.”

That opinion wasn’t shared by all. Councilor Troy Yant expressed skepticism about the program, particularly about the length of time it would take to fully address the problem.

“The landowner, the homeowner that wants them off their property still has an 11-year problem, a 15-year problem,” Yant argued.

“They’re not going to live that long,” Baldridge responded. “You’ll lose 30 percent of them here. In short order, you’re going to start seeing somewhat of a decline.”

After a lengthy discussion about the particulars of such a program — who could trap, the necessity of ordinances, the availability of funding from outside sources — Baldridge reiterated the need for communication.

“Make sure the public knows what you’re doing,” Baldridge said. “Make sure they know that if they let their cats run, there’s a chance it’s going to be operated on.”

In other business, council:

• accepted the resignation of firefighter Jeff Grismore, effective March 13.

• accepted the resignation of Public Works Operator Matt Wiechert, effective March 17.

• authorized advertising for a public works operator.

• discussed, without immediate action, the Putnam County YMCA’s continued management of Memorial Pool, as well as the pool’s hours of operation.

The next regular meeting of the Ottawa Village Council is scheduled for Monday, March 27, at 8 p.m. in the village offices.