Storm Lake city government has become a lot more fun lately. They're doing all kinds of interesting stuff, from what surely has to be the world's most environmentally-friendly parking lot to talking of turning a dredging spoil site into a motocross track.
You just never know what's going to happen at a city council meeting these days. What used to be a yawner assignment has become must see entertainment.
On Monday, the city council hired goats.
When I first saw this on the agenda last week, I had to call city hall - twice. I thought someone was playing a prank on me. I looked under the desk to see if Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out and yell "Punked!"
When I wrote that the city council would talk about goats on Monday, people thought I was nuts.
But indeed, the council voted unanimously to rent 20 goats from a Lytton goat-wrangler outfit known as The Hungry Herd.
Human employees have been struggling to keep up with the weed problem in hard-to-get-to spots, and, as the mayor opined, goats are a little more sure-footed than city staff, and a lot less likely to file a workman's comp claim.
So, starting today, goats will patrol the creek area of the Bargloff Addition as something of a test case, grazing out weedy overgrowth.
A series of moveable electric fence panels will keep them focused on the job at hand, I'm told.
If this works well, next year the goats would really go public, being employed to clean out the weedy mess along the shoreline from the football field at BVU (would the U consider re-naming its sports teams the Mighty Goats?) right down through Chautauqua Park.
Again, I'm told that goats are not big fans of swimming, so aren't likely to make a break for it to South Shore, though I have not yet interviewed any goats on the subject.
Monday night, a spirited exchange took place between concerned city council member Sara Huddleston and the public works director pushing for the goat contact.
Huddleston pointed out that the City has gone to great efforts to clean the lake, and wanted assurances that the goat byproducts would not cause pollution problems.
She was assured that goat - um - droppings - are the greenest form of fertilizer around and that they won't pile up as the goats move down the shoreline and that, hey, its probably not as bad as the geese droppings all over the LakeTrail, anyway.
She did not look convinced, but eventually voted in favor of the scheme.
Never did I suspect I would hear the city hall chambers in use as a platform for debate on the relative merits of goat turds, but life is nothing if not an education.
I must be honest, the first thing that popped into my head at the thought of turning goats loose on Storm Lake weeds is some old childhood parable about a woman who swallowed a fly. As I recall from my toddler days, she had to swallow a spider to get catch the fly, and then a bird to get rid of the spider, and so on and so on. And then she died, which is a lousy way to end a children's parable, in my estimation.
The moral, I suppose, it that we have to take care that our solutions don't become bigger headaches than a problems that inspired them.
I'm not sure I could sign off on cheetahs or water buffalos on the streets of Storm Lake to contain a population or rogue goats.
Kidding aside (pardon the pun), though, this crazy idea kind of makes sense. Twenty goats work cheaper than one city employee, and they seldom call in sick. In a City that's priding itself on environmental efforts, I suppose eating weeds is about as natural as you can get, and maybe safer than drowning them in an Agent Orange cloud of pesticide spray.
The people of the goat company seem to have a pretty good grip on containing their animals, and say they are not bothers by passing traffic, though Storm Lake will be a first test of the concept of using their goats in an urban area.
So, here's the disclaimer. Stay clear of the goat fence, folks. The warning signs will not be kidding. If you thought a double latte gives you a jolt, you've never tangled with an electic fence.
And don't go trying to make friends with the goats, either. Drive by, check it out, snap a picture if you like, but don't go forging relationships. They are not wild, but they are working farm animals, and are not intended for petting. These are city employees, you might say, on the clock. Let them do their jobs.