By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS -- Council members unanimously passed first reading on a resolution that would prohibit four-wheelers and like vehicles from city streets and alleys.
The next two required readings will take place at the next two council meetings. A similar proposal failed to pass a couple of years ago after ATV drivers protested.
In response to Councilman Michael Bernard's question as to whether there have been a "rash of tickets and accidents, or have people just been complaining," Council Vice President Dennis Vossler said that manufacturers of the off-road vehicles say they are not safe for pavement.
"The original ordinance we are modifying allows for 15 mph, which is not very fast. These vehicles are equipped to go 75 mph," Vossler said.
Mayor Greg Freewalt explained the original ordinance, which permits the operation of all-purpose vehicles on the travel portions of streets and alleys within the city, excluding Spring Street between Wayne and Spruce streets, was passed in the late 1970s, primarily for snowmobiles. The mayor as well as other council members have had complaints about the four wheelers "roaring" through various alleys in town.
Councilwoman Robin Willoughby said she has had several complaints of people drinking beer and driving around on the four-wheelers. "The police can't catch them when they race around the alleys," she said.
Vossler quoted an earlier conversation he had with Police Chief Greg Foxhoven saying the chief has said the off-road vehicles "should not be on the streets."
Freewalt suggested that if off-road vehicles are to remain legal on St. Marys streets, they should comply with the same licensing requirements and procedures as motorcycles.
City officials had considered banning all-terrain vehicles from city streets nearly two years ago. On the night the legislation was to be approved, though, council members sharply changed course and bowed to 20 ATV enthusiasts who persistently begged council not to punish a large group for the misdeeds of a few rogue riders.