|Terry Harrison, East Carbon City Council|
With spring approaching, East Carbon's planning and zoning committee along with the councilmembers are racing to get the city ordinance concerning off highway vehicles passed before warmer weather arrives.
"We have had three meetings in the last week, but we finally have an ordinance together that we feel is ready to go to the city attorney," said East Carbon Councilmember David Avery, who also serves on the planning and zoning committee.
Avery reported that the city's police force worked in conjunction with the committee in writing the new ordinance.
"We got with the city police department and decided there was no reason for us to write an ordinance that they could not enforce," said Avery.
If passed by the council, the ordinance would enact the following changes to the city's guidelines:
Use of an OHV as general mode of transportation within the city is prohibited for riders under the age of 16 years.
Operators 12-16 may travel on city streets to off road trails and for gas, food or lodging.
The maximum speed for an OHV shall be 15 miles per hour on city streets and 10 miles per hour on dirt roads within 200 feet of any home, business or highway.
The particular section of the ordinance brought immediate response from the council.
"I am really worried about the city's liability if we are telling kids that are 12 years old that they can ride 15 miles per hour on city streets," said Mayor Orlando LaFontaine.
According to Councilmember Joyce Caviness and Avery, the studies conducted with the local police force determined that 10 mph was too slow and 20 mph was too fast.
They concluded that 15 mph was fast enough to keep OHVs out of the way of motorists while protecting young riders.
Only two persons shall be permitted to ride any single OHV.
No operator shall carry any person and no person shall ride in a position that will interfere with the operation of the OHV or the view of the operator.
Every OHV and motor-driven cycle shall be equipped with the following items for daylight travel, a muffler system, a brake system and one red reflector on the rear of the vehicle.
Every OHV and motor-driven cycle shall be equipped with the following items for evening riding, defined as anytime 30 minutes before dusk or sunset, one stop light and one head light.
All operators of OHV's must comply with East Carbon Nuisance Ordinances.
The new stipulations for age requirements were also clearly defined.
No operator under 8 years of age shall be allowed to operate an OHV on any city street.
Operators under the age of 12 years must be accompanied by a licensed adult.
Operators between the ages of 8 and 16 mus have in their possession and OHV education certificate issued by the state division of parks and recreation and validated by the East Carbon City Police Department.
"We not only wanted to make sure the kids had taken the course," said Avery. "But we also wanted to make sure they had gone over the ordinance with our police, this stamp would accomplish that."
The council also discussed the possibility of having the training conducted within the city by East Carbon Police Sgt. Phillip Holt free of charge to the riders.
All OHV operators between 16 years and older must be in possession of a valid drivers license. If revoked or suspended or without a license operators must be in possession of a valid OHV education certificate.
All operators under the age of 18 must be properly fitted with a safety helmet.
The city council had many questions concerning the liability the city is taking on by allowing minors to ride on city roads and the public had their opinions as well.
Former Carbon County Sheriff Jim Robertson presented the council with House Bill 291 which was passed this legislative session and is awaiting the governor's signature, according to Robertson.
The bill stipulates among other things that riders under the age of 18 be "directly supervised by a person of at least 18 years who is either licensed to operate a motor vehicle or certified in OHV safety.
The legislature is also currently considering a bill that would directly address OHV laws for rural sized communities and highway OHV use, Senate Bill 181.
Since state law supersedes a city's ordinance, Bonnie Bell, who has been assisting the planning and zoning committee was charged with the task of folding House Bill 291 into the city's ordinance while Senate Bill 181 is considered.
While the city's liability is a concern for the council, the safety of the riders in the community is the chief concern for the public and government alike.
"I understand that the city has some concerns for liability," said Marcus Palacios, Administrator of the 53V's, a riding club in East Carbon. "But if we don't give our kids an alternative from crossing at dead mans curve, liability is going to be the least of our concerns."
Dead mans curve is a notorious blind corner on State Road 123 where young riders cross trails regardless of the law or danger.
Following a lengthy discussion the council did agree to send the ordinance to their city attorney for legal review before voting on the ordinance.