DEWITT – City of DeWitt officials are developing an ordinance that would allow licensed drivers 18 years of age or older to operate all-terrain utility vehicles within the city of DeWitt limits.
The current city code states that UTVs, also commonly referred to as side-by-side, cannot be operated on a city street with a speed limit greater than 25 mph. The law essentially prohibits vehicles from entering or leaving the city, as the roads entering and leaving the city have speed limits that exceed this threshold.
The current code also specifically prohibits their operation on major arteries such as 11th Street, Humeston Road, Industrial Drive, Sixth Avenue, Lake Street and 300th Avenue. These restrictions would be removed if the law was passed by the council.
Previously, the city did not allow UTVs to operate in the city due to safety concerns with UTVs, but DeWitt City administrator Steve Lindner said advancements in the design make the vehicles more viable. .
“The vehicles since we made this ordinance have improved their safety characteristics,” said Lindner. “And so, between the improved security measures and their increased use at the local level, they become quite typical to be seen in other communities.”
Matt Kent, a DeWitt resident who has advocated for the law to change for several years, said allowing UTVs to enter DeWitt could give an economic boost to businesses that cater to drivers of UTV, including convenience stores, restaurants and bars. UTV enthusiasts are known to take part in large group rides that sometimes involve dozens of cyclists traveling from city to city. These runners are avoiding DeWitt, he said.
“The people at UTV are afraid of DeWitt,” Kent said at a recent board meeting. “They are not coming (DeWitt). They don’t want to be in it (DeWitt). They don’t spend their money in DeWitt. They choose to spend it in other cities.
The changes to the law, which have yet to be officially proposed to council for a vote, say vehicles will be allowed on all city streets, including Old US 61 and Old US 30, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
As in the past, the city will require that all UTVs operated in the city undergo an inspection and annual license to operate specific to DeWitt’s operation. The law also proposes that all UTVS must follow the rules of the road to which typical vehicles are subject, including the use of headlights, seat belts and turn signals.
“UTVs have really evolved in their ability to travel at higher speeds, and they almost look like cars,” Lindner said.
“They’re probably safer than a motorcycle as long as they have turn signals, headlights, seat belts, horns, that sort of thing,” DeWitt Police Chief Dave Porter said. “And brake lights, like a car.”
Kent said the majority of UTVs are not equipped with turn signals, but many bikers apply alternate signals for their own safety.
UTVs are also permitted to operate on Clinton County secondary roads by a licensed driver 18 years of age or older between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. . DeWitt’s new UTV law – if passed – would allow those who drive around the county to enter town as they please as long as they have a license issued by DeWitt to do so.
County law states that UTVs must be operated at 35 mph or less or “at a speed reasonable or appropriate under existing conditions”.
The county also requires headlights, taillights and a muffler.
The board will discuss the potential new law at a future meeting.
Planning for the first rolling street
The council approved a contract with Origin Design to plan the reconstruction of First Street. The contract, in the amount of $ 207,000, covers topographic surveys, final design, construction administration and field services.
The estimated $ 1.6 million project involves the reconstruction of the 800 block of First Street in DeWitt near Little Trees Park. The work should take place in the spring.
Ordinance on vacant buildings under construction
City officials continue to draft an ordinance that would help them track buildings deemed vacant.
“We have a couple that concerns us,” Lindner said.
The ordinance, which has yet to be presented to council for a vote, will provide officials with a way to communicate with owners of vacant buildings and monitor their condition.
“We don’t have a big problem with vacant buildings; there aren’t many, ”Lindner said. “But we don’t want to have a problem. The intention is to allow us to better communicate and be in contact with the owners of these buildings, so that they are not marginalized where (the buildings) become dangerous for people or threatening for a neighborhood.
If passed, the law will require vacant buildings to be inspected annually for hazards and be subject to an unspecified charge.
A building will be considered vacant if it meets a series of criteria, including if it is not secure, is not connected to city utilities, or does not meet building code standards.
In other matters, counsel:
• Approval of an employee assistance program with personal assistance services to provide city employees with medical consultation and welfare services. The city contracted with Genesis Medical System for nearly 20 years to provide the service, but Lindner said Genesis is contracting out the service to PAS. The rate PAS charges – $ 3.33 per hour – is lower than Genesis’ fees, Lindner said. The service will cost the city $ 1,358 for one year. Lindner said the deal is for three years, but noted to the council that city employees rarely use the service, especially recently.
• Approved the release of a forgivable mortgage loan for Pauline Burken at 314 Ninth St. Burken participated in the low to middle income housing rehabilitation program in 2006 and entered into a forgivable agreement with the city. The loan has been written off, Lindner said.
• Approved the release of a forgivable mortgage loan for Cynthia Burke at 709, Fourth St. Burke participated in the town’s low to middle income down payment assistance program in 2016 and entered into an agreement to forgivable loan with the city. The loan has been written off, Lindner said.
• Approval of the purchase of a hydraulic rescue tool for the fire department for $ 10,210.
• Authorized the purchase of a new computer for the Parks and Recreation Department. The city bought a Lenovo from Computer Evolution for $ 1,049.98. It will be used by Department Director Kevin Lake.
Nick Joos is the editor of DeWitt Observer.