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City set to say no to golf carts

Motorized golf carts could disappear from Park Rapids streets as the city council looks to amend an ordinance to prohibit the vehicles. (Submitted photo)

Motorized golf carts have been operating in sort of a legal gray area in recent years without clear application of a Park Rapids city ordinance and not exactly street legal.

That could change soon as the city council looks to clear up that gray area and prohibit golf carts from traveling the streets.

At the March 14 meeting the council voted 3-2 directing City Administrator John McKinney and staff to prepare a new ordinance making it illegal to operate motorized golf carts on city streets. McKinney looks to prepare a new ordinance by amending the existing ordinance to state golf carts are not permitted on city streets. The new ordinance will be presented to the city council for discussion as an action item at an upcoming meeting.

The council discussed at its Sept. 13, 2016 meeting the matter of clarifying the policy on golf carts and interpretation of the current ordinance. The council at that time adopted a motion to approve a moratorium on the ordinance and permitting process for golf carts in the city. Since then, no permits have been issued. Although technically operating golf carts on city streets without a permit is illegal, the ordinance hasn't been fully enforced.

The council again reviewed the matter at its Jan. 5 meeting of this year and referred to staff for a report and recommendation.

Councilwoman Erika Randall has, during previous discussions and again at Tuesday's meeting, seen golf carts on city streets as a safety concern for those operating the carts, as well as other motorists on the road.

Randall made a motion to have city staff prepare an ordinance that does not allow the issuance of permits for golf carts. Mayor Pat Mikesh seconded the motion, which passed 3-2. Randall, Mikesh and Liz Stone voted in favor, with Ryan Leckner and Dick Rutherford opposing the motion.

Police Chief Jeff Appel, following previous discussions, was asked to review the existing ordinance and permitting process and come back with a recommendation. He found that a city or town "may" allow the authorization of the operation of golf carts on city streets.

"I have genuine safety concerns for the motoring public to include those operating the golf carts and those operating normal vehicles within the city."

Appel recommends operation of golf carts on any city streets be made illegal.

During Tuesday's discussion on the motion, Rutherford commented the ordinance doesn't need to be changed, but rather let law enforcement enforce the ordinance. Leckner passed on concerns the Chamber of Commerce shared with him about how this could restrict downtown accessibility for some residents.

Safety concerns with the golf carts cited include with center street parking visibility is an issue making it difficult to see golf carts through downtown intersections.

McKinney noted golf carts are not allowed on sidewalks and according to state statute cannot travel on U.S. Highway 71 or State Highway 34, only allowed to cross those streets at designated intersections.

Excess property sale

The council passed a resolution authorizing the sale of excess city property through K-Bid of Park Rapids, an online auction site owned and operated by councilman Ryan Leckner. The property to be sold is a 1999 John Deere 445 and attachments, a 1964 Howe Ladder truck and a 1998 Bobcat 763.

City staff will write up a contract with Leckner, who will receive 0 percent commission on the sale. Rutherford made the motion to sell equipment on K-Bid, seconded by Randall. Leckner abstained from voting on the resolution, which passed 4-0.

In other business:

• Approved tree contractor license to work in the city in 2017 for A.C. Construction.

• Passed resolutions approving Minnesota lawful gaming application for exempt permits for Living at Home of Park Rapids Area, Park Rapids Chapter of Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Headwaters Ducks Unlimited.

• Approved renewal of off sale 3.2 beer license for Walmart and Holiday Stationstore.

• Proclaimed April 28, 2017 as Arbor Day in the city.

• Approved purchase of $900 chainsaw for the fire department.

• Approved purchase in the amount of $29,745 for a one-ton truck chassis from Thielen Motors and $20,133 for various upfits from Towmaster for Parks Department.

• Authorized agreement for solid waste collection by Northern Pines Sanitation.

• Approved volunteer firefighter wage adjustment for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Hourly rate for any paid volunteer firefighter is $12.86 in 2017; $13.12 in 2018; and $13.38 in 2019. For full-time city employees who are also paid volunteer firefighters, their hourly rate for after-hour calls will be $19.29 in 2017; $19.68 in 2018; and $20.07 in 2019.

• Accepted resignation of Park Rapids Spirits full-time liquor store clerk Tiffany Halbasch and authorized city staff to post, advertise and interview for vacant full-time position.

• Approved bid in the amount of $1,465 from Tweeton Refrigeration to replace seven door gaskets on the coolers at Rapids Spirits.