BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A move to allow golf carts, ATVs and UTVs on Fort Madison streets passed it’s first hurdle Tuesday night.
The Fort Madison City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance to permit the vehicles on most city streets 4-2 with Chad Cangas abstaining because he said the issue needed more discussion.
The ordinance will get more discussion at is requires two more readings before it can be approved.
Councilmen Kevin Rink, Rusty Andrews, Matt Mohrfeld and Chris Greenwald all voted for the ordinance, leaving Councilmen Bob Morawitz and Mark Lair voting against the measure.
Cangas encouraged residents who still have an issue with the possible change in law to contact city council members with concerns.
“I would like to say, in this moment, if there are people with other opinions, call me I’d like to hear some people, if there are my constituents in the city for it, I want to know,” Cangas said.
Cangas said he’s heard more from residents on this issue than he has cumulatively on other issues in his time on the council.
“I’ve yet to hear from one of my constituents with a positive argument for why we should do this,” Cangas said.
Mohrfeld introduced the idea of allowing the vehicles on the street in June. The ordinance allows anyone with a valid operator’s license who is at least 18 years of age to operate the vehicles on Fort Madison streets with the exception of 15th and 18th streets, Business 61 and Hwy. 2.
In the preview article, the Pen City Current listed the county’s current legal age for operating the vehicles on secondary roads as 16, but that is in error and the county ordinance also requires a driver to be at least 18.
“I think this is the greatest idea and you all know why I think that,” Mohrfeld. “There is a trend in the state and more than 50% of the counties now have an ordinance that allows ATVs, UTVs on the roadway and they are having fairly good success.”
He said other states are using it as a function of tourism and a tool for agriculture sector. He said people could get off American Cruise Line ships and onto a six-seater to be guided through town.
Mohrfeld sparred with Morawitz on the safety issues facing motorists.
“If you took this to an election it would fail,” Morawitz said.
Lair said he agreed with Morawitz and Cangas that most people he’s spoken with are against it and maybe one or two for it.
“And for the safety reason. I was involved in a minor accident at 25 mph a week ago. Car run a stop sign and hit me broadside. Had it been a golf cart somebody would have been hurt very bad,” Lair said.
“I”m just saying it, it happens.”
Morawitz said ATVs have a sticker on them that says they aren’t supposed to be driven on a paved road because they aren’t set up for that.
Mohrfeld said everyone shoulders personal responsibility on any vehicle for safety. He said acid testing everything on personal safety would pose the question should the city go after tobacco and alcohol related activities.
“Realistically, the number one killer out there is tobacco and alcohol related incidents. Are we going to start loading against them for public safety?” Mohrfeld said.
Morawitz said those vehicles pose different safety considerations.
“With the golf cart you’re talking only the person hurt is the person in the golf cart, but the person who hit’s them also gets hurt,” Morawitz said.
“That would be true of any vehicle,” Mohrfeld replied.
Morawitz said it’s an additional safety hazard with the small vehicles that aren’t easily seen, and cars have national safety standards. He said the other vehicles aren’t allowed on streets because they don’t meet those standards.
Mohrfeld said then that test would require looking at mopeds, motorcycles, and bicycles, but Morawitz said those vehicles have been approved for street riding. The other vehicles have not.
Cangas said ethically he has to consider the additional safety risks before he says yes or no on the ordinance.
Former councilman Brian Wright addressed the council and said the move was voted down by previous councils unanimously for safety issues and those have not changed since then.
“I’m with Chad, I think there’s safety issues and questions that need to be answered,” Wright said. “This opens up a lot more, like Mark said, with accidents.”
The city will have the ordinance up for a second reading at it’s next council meeting on Sept. 3.