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East Grand Forks council weighs potential enforcements for ordinances related to special-use vehicles

The discussion comes as council members Clarence Vetter and Tim Riopelle said they’ve been receiving complaints from residents in their wards about people, typically minors, speeding down roads when driving special-use vehicles.

East Grand Forks City Hall
East Grand Forks City Hall. File photo Brandi Jewett/ Grand Forks Herald
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EAST GRAND FORKS – Discussion on ordinances relating to the use of golf carts, utility task vehicles and other special-use vehicles in town was discussed by members of the East Grand Forks City Council during Tuesday’s work session meeting.

The discussion comes as council members Clarence Vetter and Tim Riopelle said they’ve been receiving complaints from residents in their wards about people, typically minors, speeding down roads when driving special-use vehicles.

Back in 2019, the city looked into ordinances on special-use vehicles, including golf carts, UTVs, all-terrain vehicles and mini trucks. The city passed ordinances allowing UTVs, ATVs and golf carts to operate on designated streets, provided they obtain a vehicle license from the city, which are valid for three years. In 2021, 54 licenses were issued; so far this year, 31 have been issued.

The current city ordinance doesn’t allow for these vehicles to be operated by someone who does not have a valid driver's license and is younger than 16.

The way East Grand Forks city code is written, ATVs and golf carts are only supposed to be on the road for specific reasons. City Administrator David Murphy said golf carts are only to be used on the streets if the person driving it is disabled and has mobility issues. Murphy said city code for ATVs appears to be written with the idea that ATVs would be used for business purposes, such as for lawn care.

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Murphy said he has spoken with the East Grand Forks Police Department about stepping up enforcement of underage drivers and reckless driving, but he also asked council members what type of enforcement they would like to see for people violating the city code.

One suggestion is to impound the vehicles if the driver is underage. The parents would then have to pay for the towing fee and impound fee to get the vehicle back. Another suggestion would be to cite the drivers.

Murphy said the police officers he spoke with were unsure whether they could cite the parents for underage drivers, but impounding the vehicle would be a good option to get the parents' attention.

Council member Marc DeMers said he is in favor of continuing to allow UTVs that are street legal on the streets, but would like to see harsher penalties for those violating city code.

“You only have so many officers to go around, obviously, but it needs to be a point of emphasis,” DeMers said.

DeMers wondered whether automatic fines can be given out to those not following the city code other than reverting to the state penalty structure.

“Unless the penalties are going to hurt, I don’t think a $100 fine is going to stop it. I really don’t,” DeMers said. “I think it's got to be expensive. I think it’s got to be difficult, like you said — impound the vehicle.”

Council member Dale Helms agreed that making the penalty stiffer would prevent the incidents from happening again.

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“We could have our officers stop them, but they might be busy all day long stopping these things. They've got better things to do,” Helms said.

Mayor Steve Gander asked if it's possible for police to get the name and address of those who are caught recklessly driving. Chief of Police Mike Hedlund said getting in touch with the family of those driving underage can be done.

Further discussion on the potential enforcement for the ordinances will be brought back at a future work session meeting.

READ MORE EAST GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL NEWS

In other council news Tuesday:

  • Council members heard an update on the high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) system project at the intersection of Bygland Road and 13th Street Southeast. City Engineer Steve Emery said that the time it takes to receive the signal poles used to mount the HAWK system lights is about five to six months after the order is placed. Emery said the city was optimistic about getting the project designed, receiving bids and completing construction prior to the start of the school year in the fall, but with the delays in material the project can no longer be completed in that time frame. The estimated start of construction for the HAWK system is scheduled for next summer.
  • Council members were informed about the upcoming 2022 election cycle. The primary election will be on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and the general election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The filing period for city positions of Ward 2, Ward 4 and at-large will be Aug. 2 through Aug. 16. Megan Nelson, the city clerk, said Ward 1 will not be included on the ballot because it will not be vacant at the time of the election. If current Ward 1 representative Clarence Vetter is elected to Ward 2, the council would have to appoint someone to complete his term for Ward 1.
    Absentee voting will be available at City Hall for all city wards 46 days prior to each election. The primary election time frame for absentee voting is June 24, to Aug. 8. The general election time frame for absentee voting is Sept. 23 to Nov. 7.
    Voters that need to register to vote before election day should do so by July 19 for the primary election and Oct. 18 for the general election.
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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