Wauseon City Council on Monday approved the first step in permitting slow-moving vehicles on city streets, but at least one member was convinced an operator should have a driver’s license.
Following a lengthy discussion, council members voted 5-1 to pass the first reading of an ordinance to include Ohio Revised Code Chapter 377 into the city codified ordinances. The city ordinance would permit four classifications of slow-moving vehicles – low-speed, underspeed, utility, and min-truck – only on city streets with an established speed at or under 35 miles per hour, and only after being inspected for safety.
The negative vote was cast by Councilor Shane Chamberlin, who became convinced the ordinance should include a driver’s license requirement after hearing comments by Police Chief Keith Torbet in favor of that stipulation.
Beginning Jan. 1, Ohio law regarding the operation of those categories of slow-moving vehicles on roadways changes. However, the state is allowing municipalities to supersede its regulations on this issue.
Chamberlin said the council’s discussion centered on whether a valid driver’s license should be necessary to operate vehicles on the city’s streets that move 25 miles per hour and under. Passage of the first reading on Monday did not include that requirement.
“That’s what we’re wrestling with right now,” Chamberlin said Tuesday. “If they’re going to be on the roadway, I would want everyone on the roadway to understand the rules of the road.”
Torbet said on Tuesday an individual needs an operator’s license before driving any slow-moving vehicle on the road.
“I understand there’s a usefulness for these vehicles. (But) if they’re not capable of, or don’t have, a driver’s license they shouldn’t be able to operate any of these vehicles either,” he said.
Torbet said he is concerned with slow-moving vehicles interacting with larger vehicles on permissible city streets.
At a Safety and Code Committee meeting held Dec. 15, a motion was approved requiring a driver’s license, a minimum age of 16, and proof of financial responsibility for all of the vehicle classifications.
The issue will be further discussed at a Safety and Code Committee meeting Dec. 27 at 9 a.m. in Council chambers at 230 Clinton St. City Council will finalize its vote on the matter at a special meeting Dec. 29 at 8 a.m.
“It’s not a done issue yet, ” Chamberlin said.
The city’s Tree Commission reported it is considering sponsoring a series of Saturday morning public workshops on forestry topics such as oak savannas, windbreaks, and pruning.
In other business, the council approved the six-year appointments of Sue Wines and Steve Brown to the Planning Commission, from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2022, and one-year terms on the Charter Revision Commission for Jeff Stiriz and Jon Schamp.
The council also accepted Mayor Kathy Huner’s appointment of Steve Brown as a city housing official. His duties will include reviewing and certifying tax abatement applications and attending required Community Reinvestment Area Housing Council meetings.
In department reports, Torbet said the police department will hold a second “Use of Force” class sometime at the end of February. The class presents scenarios officers can experience on-duty and offers citizens an opportunity to determine whether force is necessary.
City Council also approved:
• The suspension of three readings and emergency passage of: a resolution to designate public despositories, award public monies, and authorize the mayor to sign memoranda of agreements with public depositories and the City of Wauseon; a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into agreement with Paramount for health insurance coverage; a resolution amending the classification and compensation plans to include the position of fire department executive assistant.
• The first reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to renew an agreement with Schoenhardt & Associates for accounting services needed for generally accepted accounting principles accounting.
The next regularly-scheduled City Council meeting will be held 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, in Council chambers at 230 Clinton St.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 410-335-2010.