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Vehicles an issue in BE

Council concerned with golf carts, 4x4 ATVs

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Aug 8, 2021

Golf carts and mini-trucks and all-terrain vehicles, oh my! The Blue Earth City Council met for a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. and ventured down the yellow brick road of special vehicle operation regulations.

Discontent has been bubbling under the surface in Blue Earth for some time regarding the operation of special vehicles on city streets.

“There are young children driving them who are not aware of the safety concerns and dangers,” said city administrator Mary Kennedy.

Kennedy added it has been difficult to get special vehicles properly registered.

“The most telling thing I can share with you is we have four golf carts registered right now with the city of Blue Earth. If you leave City Hall right now, you can probably find more of them driving,” said Kennedy.

The removal of a section of the ordinance concerning special vehicles in 2016 has made it difficult for the city to enforce the correct registration and operation of such vehicles.

“There’s a big glitch in how it’s being done,” explained mayor Rick Scholtes. “The fines all reference the old section. We really don’t have any way to fine anybody for not being registered, because the section of the ordinance isn’t there anymore.”

Police chief Tom Fletcher provided additional perspective, explaining it is difficult to enforce safe driving of special vehicles given the lack of official legislation.

“We’ve always enforced it like we have, but the truth is, it isn’t written like that anymore,” said Fletcher.   

The lack of language specifying regulations on special vehicles led the city to pursue an amendment to the ordinance.

The amendment will offer clarity regarding the definition of a special vehicle, permits required to operate such vehicles, where and how special vehicles may be operated and various safety features they should be equipped with.

“It includes permitting requirements, and we did put in times of operation that are clearer, as well as an age requirement,” explained city attorney David Frundt. “All vehicles are to be driven by those with a license.”

As licenses are not issued to individuals under 16 years of age, this will automatically impose restrictions on the age of citizens operating special vehicles.

Fines for violation of the new ordinance could be steep.

“Fines go up to $1,000,” relates Frundt. “Violation for not having a permit will go to the owner of the vehicle.”

The council clarified certain situations in which different rules will apply to special vehicles.

“If someone has a medical condition, they can get a waver for that,” explained Scholtes.

The council also considered situations in which special vehicles are used for non-recreational purposes. For example, council member Glenn Gaylord inquired whether the use of ATVs to clear snow in the winter will require a permit.

Fletcher clarified, “That’s a commercial permit, not a residential permit.”

The council hopes awareness about the consequences for violating the ordinance will decrease reckless driving in the community.

“We can make a pamphlet with fees and fines associated with the ordinance. We can get it out to people, and when they look at it they’ll see, ‘Oh, there are some big fines associated with that,'” suggested Kennedy.

Overall, the council’s goal is to make the community safer.

“The biggest issue is safety,” said Scholtes. “If golf carts get hit by a car, we know who’s going to win that deal.”

The council also held a work session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the county’s animal control policies.

Kennedy explained one of her priorities recently has been to draft an agreement between the Faribault County Joint Powers Animal Control Board and the Faribault County Humane Society.

“Before the board was set up, there were agreements set between the city and the humane society,” explained Kennedy. “When the board came into existence, no agreement was set.” She hopes an official agreement between the two entities will hold everybody accountable.

The council was most concerned about the proper collection of fees from the owners of impounded animals. Kennedy explained she had discovered it was the humane society who was collecting all fees for the animal control officer, not the city.

Kennedy said, “Ultimately that is not good practice. It is our animal control fee that we need to be collecting as a municipality.”

Kennedy shared she is encouraging the humane society to put the responsibility of collecting fees upon the city.

She also noted the humane society is looking to develop a new facility, potentially at the former Papa D’s Pizza building.

“They are talking with the owner of the property and working out some details with contractors to see what it would take to bring the building up to what they would be using it for,” explained Kennedy.

Scholtes added, “I think the biggest support they need is that new building. They really need a nicer facility.”

Other business discussed at Monday night’s meeting includes: 

• The resignation of council member Dan Warner, whose family is moving outside the city limits of Blue Earth.

In his letter of resignation, Warner expressed his gratitude towards the council, who he credited for maintaining an attitude of respect and caring for Blue Earth.

The council voted to declare a vacancy on the Blue Earth City Council, and will begin accepting applications for a replacement council member who can take Warner’s place until elections are held in November, 2022.

• The results of a speed study done at South Rice and East 17th Street. Bill Eckhardt, building services and maintenance director at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, had requested that the council consider lowering the speed limit in this area as he had observed vehicles traveling too quickly past residents.

The results of the speed study indicated very few vehicles were speeding in the area, however, and Eckhardt agreed the issue has improved since he requested the speed limit be lowered.

• A purchase agreement between Blue Earth Light and Water and the Blue Earth Industrial Service Company. Blue Earth Light and Water will be purchasing a property on Domes Drive for the price of $69,000 with plans to build an electrical substation. They hope to start building next year.