By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
After the excitement of two angry residents storming out of last Thursday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, one breaking the City Hall door’s glass and threatening the mayor, St. Mary Mayor Carlton Wyatt broke a 2-2 tie to pass a bill amending the city’s ordinance on utility terrain vehicles (UTVs).
The changes were relatively minor, but had been debated at great length the previous meeting and again Thursday.
The newly-worded ordinance:
=Changes the definition of “golf cart” to include gasoline-powered carts as well as electric.
=Adds a liability waiver in place of a requirement that insurance policies state the vehicle is legal on city streets.
=Removes the signal light requirement.
=Expands hours of use by an hour a day, to 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
=Requires children age 8 and younger to wear helmets.
=Requires the flag to be at least two feet above the roof, to be orange and at least 6 by 9 inches big.
The insurance requirement was removed after it was noted the previous meeting that no insurance provider would be willing to state that the vehicles were covered on city streets.
Wyatt said that, if residents refuse to sign the waiver, the city will go back to the insurance provision, which would essentially end the use of the vehicles.
“I’m going to protect the city as much as I can and they’ve got to sign it,” Wyatt said.
Early in the meeting, resident Mark Vogt was on the agenda to address the board about the subject.
Vogt said he had spoken to Eric Bennett, Ste. Genevieve police chief, sheriff’s department personnel, and to Mayor Paul Monia of Bloomsdale, about their ordinances and how they have been enforced.
He asked about the helmet requirement, and said that turn signals are required in Ste. Genevieve but not lights. Vogt said he had been behind a UTV on Highway 61, who did not have turn signals. He said the driver made “the old traditional hand sign” for a turn.
“To me, I don’t think it’s a big issue in the daytime to have turn signals,” Vogt said. “It’s a big expense. If you get a UTV with all the bells and whistles on one, you’re talking about expensive machinery.”
Wyatt, who had favored a ban on after-dark driving, said that turn signals would not be needed if UTVs are only driven in daytime.
“Hand signals are still legal,” he said.
He also addressed the question of helmets, noting that they would be required only for children.
Doug Louderback then said that he has seen Wyatt’s grandchildren “go across the street, not wearing a helmet or seat belt” in a UTV.
“I’m done,” Louderback yelled, as he concluded.
“Yep, you’re done,” Wyatt replied, after which Louderback suggested the mayor try dining on excrement, before storming out.
Wyatt and Alderwoman Jennifer Schwartz then debated the after-dark use of UTVs.
“It’s a different group of people at nighttime than it is daytime.”
“That sounds like discrimination,” Schwartz said.
Wyatt said he has side-by-sides, but doesn’t ride them at night, due to safety concerns.
“That’s you,” Schwartz said. “That’s not everybody else.”
Wyatt said that nighttime use of UTVs had never been favored when ordinances were considered in the past.
“We don’t need ‘em running around the streets at nighttime,” he said.
Vogt then continued, arguing that late-evening is an ideal time to use UTVs and that many working families would not have a chance to use them during the winter, when it gets dark early.
“If you required lights, like they do in Ste. Genevieve, and if you would consider changing your stance a little bit. Some people I talked to would be fine if you put a curfew on it, say 10 o’clock or so.”
Vogt also said that Ste. Genevieve “is not out to nitpick” and give tickets. He said Bennett told him he had only given one UTV operator a ticket
“I kind of hope we would have that opinion here in St. Mary,” Vogt said, adding that “it’s a custom” in Bloomsdale, where he used to live, to ride UTVs in town.
“I think we ought to concentrate on making St. Mary more family-friendly,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of young people here.”