BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A change in county code that would make it legal to ride ATVs and side-by-sides on county gravel roads is one step away from becoming a reality.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, the board voted 4-1 to approve a second reading of the ordinance. Supervisor Rich Harlow, who voted against the measure for the second time, thinks it’s too restrictive.
The proposed code includes a time restriction that allows riding from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“I want to make it crystal clear that I am in favor of you riding these things, but I don’t want to restrict your hours,” Harlow said.
“Last week I heard a flowery speech about freedom. I heard about how it should be your freedom to do this and your freedom to do that. But this 4 a.m. to 10 at night, that is giving you freedoms with restrictions and strings attached,” Harlow said.
He said the county should approach it from the opposite direction and make riding unlimited and let law enforcement address any issues. And those issues could result in tweaking the language of the code.
The code, upon second reading, had language added that ends the ordinance after one year where a review of the ordinance would take place and then it could be renewed for multiple years.
Harlow asked those in attendance, about 30, how they felt about the restrictions. Jason Smith, owner of Midwest Performance said the code is a good starting place.
“Everyone who is for this would want unlimited hours, but fear of it not passing, yes, give us the 4 to 10 and let’s get it started,” Smith said.
Ron Fedler said he was the one who mentioned the freedom to ride last week and he said a trial period is the way to go and the hours will allow the county to see how rules are being obeyed and how safety is impacted.
He also said this is good place to start. Pushing for the unlimited hours could put the ordinance in jeopardy.
“It’s better to compromise and get something going for you people, rather than losing something by asking for too much,” Fedler said.
Smith said freedom is earned.
“I don’t want this to be a free-for-all. This is my business and our livelihood and in no way do I want it to be a bad thing. I don’t want it perceived as negative or a problem. I see both sides 100%. The demographic of those in favor of this aren’t kids that are going to go out and be crazy,” he said.
County recorder Nancy Booten reminded the board that riding is still illegal until county permits are issued and slow-moving vehicle decals are on the vehicles.
The county is considering a $25 annual permit fee for ATVs and UTVS. State fees are $17.75 per year, with Lee County receiving $1.25 of that fee.
In other action, the board:
• approved the purchase of 100,000 tons of rock from Cessford and Vincennes quarries. Cessford’s rate is $11.40/ton and Vincennes’ is $10.40/per ton, but county workers have to load and weigh their own rock.
• approved the contribution rate for the Argyle RUSS Sanitary Sewer users.
• approved a fiscal agent agreement with the Green Bay Levy and Drainage District.