Marshall Council revisits special vehicle ordinance

MARSHALL – It’s an issue the city of Marshall has discussed for about a year now, with little result. But after a work session Tuesday night, the Marshall City Council might be taking a step closer toward deciding whether “special vehicles,” from golf carts to ATVs, should be allowed on city streets.

At Tuesday’s work session, Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig gathered feedback from both council members and members of the public to help draft a possible special vehicle ordinance.

The issue was first raised last May, when the council received a request from Marshall residents for a permit to drive a golf cart on city streets. The permit was denied, but the city has talked about drafting ordinances to regulate special vehicles ever since.

Martig said the options discussed previously had included restricting all special vehicles, or opening city streets to them. However, he said council members could help give him further direction for drafting an ordinance.

“I really believe we have to break it down into pieces,” said council member Mike Boedigheimer. Council members needed to decide which vehicles to allow in the city, what safety measures or equipment to require for them and which streets to allow them on.

Both council members and other community members said they would be all right with certain kinds of special vehicles, like utility vehicles (UTVs) or “Gators,” being allowed on city streets.

Marshall Public Safety Director Rob Yant said UTVs were bigger and more similar to a standard car. From a traffic safety perspective, “they would probably bring the least amount of problems,” he said.

Marshall resident and business owner Bill Ziegenhagen said he would also be in favor of UTVs being allowed. The vehicles have features like safety cages and seatbelts, he said.

Council member Larry Doom said special vehicles on city streets would need to be able to maintain posted speed limits.

There was a little less consensus on which streets special vehicles should be allowed on.

“I think safety is a prime concern,” said council member Ellayne Conyers. State statutes already forbid special vehicles from traveling on state highways, but she said she would also want vehicles like golf carts kept off of other busy Marshall streets like Bruce Street, 4th Street and Saratoga Street.

However, Marshall residents Steven and Karen Meister said they haven’t had problems driving an electric GEM car, which has a relatively low speed, on Saratoga Street. Overall slower traffic on Saratoga would be a good thing for safety, Steven Meister said.

Martig said he would take feedback from Tuesday’s work session to the city’s Legislative and Ordinance Committee for drafting and revision of a special vehicle ordinance. The committee would make a recommendation to the city council, he said, and in turn the council would have a chance to introduce the ordinance and call for a public hearing.

Council members’ concerns about city accounting practices were also discussed at the work session. Financial consultant Terri Heaton addressed questions about making city budget adjustments at the end of the year.

In March, council member Glenn Bayerkohler had questioned several city budget adjustments for 2012. Marshall City Finance Director Tom Meulebroeck said the adjustments covered items like unexpected or emergency expenses and would lessen the variances between the original 2012 budget and actual revenue and expenditures. Bayerkohler said he was concerned about approving expenses after the fact.

Heaton said Tuesday that it was permissible for the city to make the budget adjustments, provided the council approves them. However, she said the adjustments could also be made sooner and more often than at the end of the year. Having more timely budget adjustments could also help the city monitor revenue and expenses.

Heaton noted that making adjustments more often would take time, and Meulebroeck is currently the only accountant on city staff.