CHESTER - On Monday, members of city council and Mayor Larry Forsythe heard from the public regarding the controversial ban on golf carts on city streets.
Several council members and even Police Chief Ken Thorn voiced their support for lifting the ban if rules and regulations can be developed to keep past issues from arising again.
Andy Haught was the first of several Chester residents to speak during the public portion of the meeting. He asked council and the mayor to reconsider the ban because many disabled people, including himself, depended on golf carts to get around the city. Haught, who carries a portable oxygen tank, told council members he is only able to walk thirty-one feet under his own power. With a golf cart, Haught said he was able to enjoy a greater degree of independence and do daily errands with ease.
"The golf cart gave me a lot of freedom," said Haught
In reference to the city's past issues with golf carts, Haught said he understood that, at one time, some golf cart drivers "got out of hand." However, he said the misbehaviour of a few should not affect the majority of law-abiding golf cart users. He suggested council repeal the ban on golf carts and develop ordinances and other protocols to keep golf cart usage under control.
"I think if council would sit down and make rules, regulations, laws, licensing, insurance and maybe police it a little bit to get rid of the bad apples, you really wouldn't have trouble," said Haught.
Councilman John Woodruff told Haught council members have discussed developing rules and regulations to govern golf cart use. At the heart of these regulations would be a three strikes rule, meaning those golf cart user caught misbehaving on three occasions would have their privileges revoked.
"If you get caught three times, you're out," said Woodruff.
Woodruff said that if council can develop rules and regulations to keep the use of golf carts on city streets under control, he is "all for" repealing the ban. Councilman Ed Beaumont agreed saying, pending the development of rules and regulations he saw "no problem at all" repealing the ban.
Woodruff said one aspect of repealing the ban that concerned council was what, if any, liability doing so posed the city. Haught contended that if golf cart drivers were required to be insured, it would release the city from any liability.
"It would just be like car insurance or any other type of insurance," agreed Mayor Larry Forsythe.
Forsythe asked Thorn for his opinion regarding the ban. Thorn said he saw no issue so long as those with golf carts followed the law and city ordinances.
Resident and former council member Joe Geisse IV agreed with Haught, saying that if golf cart users carried insurance there would be no liability on the part of the city. He even produced the insurance card for his own golf cart and said the same rules would apply with golf carts as regular vehicle
"The city isn't liable for every car accident in town," Geisse argued.
Geisse also presented council members with a list of suggested regulations to be enforced by the city along with any existing state and federal guidelines. The list contained nine rules, which he noted were only suggestions to get council thinking about possible regulations. Included on the list were rules such as "golf carts should always yield to pedestrians, golf carts should avoid sidewalks whenever possible," and "No overly loud or offensive music."
"I really feel there should be a committee in place, almost like the water board or park,"said Geisse. "That way you have citizens and council sit down to go over it."
Council member told Geisse they appreciated his suggestions and had even already discussed some of the rules on the list.
City resident Vince Laneve was last to speak out against the ban. Laneve, who walks with assistance of a walker, told council members that his disability, at times, prevents him from getting out as much as he would like. He argued that, without a golf cart he and his son, who is also disabled, are forced to miss out on aspects of daily life that most take for granted. He provided council members with a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that a golf cart is a "power driven mobility device" and does not require the operator to have a license to operate.
"That (American with Disabilities Act) states that anyone with a disability has rights the same as any of you who can get up out of your chair and walk out this door and walk down to the city park if you want to - I can't do that and neither can my son," said Laneve. " This law states that he has the right, and so do I, to be able to get around."
Forsythe concluded the public comments portion of the meeting by saying he and council appreciate the public's feedback and would work on developing rules and regulations regarding golf carts. Forsythe noted that he and council will need to consult with City Solicitor April Raines, who was not at Monday's meeting due to illness.
"We appreciate all the comments and we will get to work on it," said Forsythe
In other business: Mayor Forsythe and city council approved Aug. 8-10 "Reunion Weekend" in Chester. The event is the official 50-year reunion of Oak Glen's first ever graduating class, the Class of 1964. Members of the class of 1964 that live in Chester, Newell and New Cumberland will be joined by classmates from around the country in celebrating their alma mater.
*Mayor Forsythe announced the Triangle Amateur Radio Club is hosting a special event radio station on the grounds of the C.A. Smith house near the Teapot on state Route 30, for the annual Old Lincoln Highway yard sale beginning at 8a.m. Saturday. A special call sign N2S was issued by the American Radio Relay League for this event. For more information call Richard Feldman at 330-386-2421.