UTVs now allowed on Paxton's streets

PAXTON — Utility task vehicles, better known as UTVs, may now be driven on Paxton’s streets.

The Paxton City Council voted unanimously during its monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 8, to amend the city’s ordinance regulating neighborhood vehicles and golf carts to allow for UTV use with a required city-issued permit.

The amendment to the ordinance was suggested in March by Alderman Eric Evans. At the council’s request, City Attorney Marc Miller added language in the ordinance to allow for UTVs, which are small two- to six-person four-wheel-drive off-road vehicles.

Evans and Police Chief Coy Cornett said they contacted two area communities that already allow UTVs on streets — Gibson City and Arthur — and neither had experienced any problems.

The amended ordinance sets a speed limit of 25 mph for both UTVs and golf carts. The original ordinance contained no speed limit for golf carts, Cornett noted.

Permit applications for UTVs are available from the police department at 755 N. Railroad Ave. To obtain a renewable one-year permit, drivers must present proof of valid liability insurance and pay a $25 fee. Permits must be displayed at all times on the rear of the vehicle.

According to the ordinance, each UTV must be equipped with headlights and tail lamps lighted at all times when the vehicle is in use on city roadways. Drivers must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid driver’s license, and all passengers must be at least 7 years old.

Miller said the definition of UTV listed in the ordinance comes from state statutes. The ordinance defines a UTV as “any motorized off-highway device designed to travel primarily off-highway, 64 inches or less in width, having a manufacturer’s dry weight of 2,000 pounds or less, traveling on four or more non-highway tires, designed with a non-straddle seat and a steering wheel for steering control, expect equipment such as lawn mowers.”

Cornett said UTVs are commonly referred to as “side-by-sides.” Mayor Bill Ingold noted that “side-by-side” implies that two people can ride next to each other, side by side, in separate seats. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not UTVs, Ingold added.

Aldermen said constituents voiced support for UTV use on city streets.

“I’ve had three people contact me,” Alderman Rob Steiger said. “Two of them wanted it; one of them, they didn’t really care.”

“I had two or three in favor of it,” Alderman Rob Pacey added.

The council voted 7-0 in favor of the ordinance amendment, with Alderman Mike Wilson absent.

Other business
Also at last Tuesday’s meeting:

➜ The mayor said he attended a book-signing event earlier that day at Market Street Tap for “CSI Old School,” a book written by former Illinois State Police crime-scene technician Jodi Barth, who dedicated a chapter of the book to the infamous Interstate 57 shootout south of Paxton that she investigated on April 7, 1979. Two police officers were killed in the bloody gun fight, including one Paxton patrolman. Ingold said there was a “good crowd” at the book-signing event, during which Barth sold and autographed copies of the book. “During the time we were there, she did make a comment that they have pitched this idea of the shooting in Hollywood and right now they are considering a made-for-TV movie or something to that effect,” Ingold added.

➜ Ingold recognized Public Works Director Mark LeClair, who just celebrated the 40th anniversary of his employment with the city. “We certainly appreciate your dedication and efforts to the city,” Ingold told LeClair, who received a round of applause.

➜ Alderman Bill Wylie, chairman of the council’s finance/budget committee, said he met recently with the labor union representing Paxton’s unionized police officers — the Fraternal Order of Police Illini Lodge 17 — to work out a new collective-bargaining agreement. Wylie said negotiations went well, with everything “pretty agreeable all along.” Said Wylie: “We’re waiting to see the final form in writing, and we think that should be here by the end of the week.”

➜ Wylie said that on Wednesday, May 9, he, the mayor and the city’s department heads were to begin working on the budget for the fiscal year that began May 1.

➜ The council voted unanimously to authorize a followup inspection of the city’s two water towers that were repainted last year. The contractor that completed the work is required to inspect the work within one year of its completion. In approving the inspection, the council also voted to enter into “any necessary agreements” with the engineering firm that oversaw the work — Berns, Clancy & Associates. Engineer Greg Gustafson said he did not know yet if there would be any additional engineering costs; he said it would depend on what is found during the inspections. If there are additional engineering fees, Gustafson estimated that the fees would range from $5,000 to $6,000.

➜ The council approved a resolution to spend up to $205,000 in motor-fuel tax (MFT) revenue on road repairs around town, as well as a contract with consulting engineer Mike Streff related to the work. Although the amount listed is $205,000, the city only plans to spend up to $170,000 — with $110,000 of that amount coming from MFT revenue and the other $60,000 coming out of the city’s general fund. Steiger said the city has a number of roads in need of repair but will not be in position to repair many of them this summer. “We could spend half a million dollars and not get everything fixed,” Steiger noted.
➜ Ingold said the Illinois Rural Water Association’s spring 2018 magazine contains a page with the newly repainted water tower on Paxton’s west side “prominently displayed.”

➜ A wheelchair-bound resident who lives at 517 E. Orleans St. told the council of his concerns about a curb on U.S. 45. The resident asked that the curb, located near Clayton’s Bridge, be removed. “If I drop off into that (curb) it throws me forward, and I’m afraid I’m going to end up in the middle of the highway,” the resident said. Ingold said the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), not the city, has jurisdiction over the state highway, so IDOT will need to determine what to do. Ingold said he would contact IDOT the following morning and inform the resident of what IDOT says can be done.

➜ Ingold said he has contacted IDOT officials about installing more signs in Paxton directing semi drivers to designated truck routes. The signs hopefully will help keep semis off of Market Street downtown, Ingold said.

➜ Paxton Emergency Management Agency Director Ed Hanson said a committee has been formed to explore ways to increase the flow and safety of vehicle and pedestrian traffic around Bixby Park and Coady Park for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks show. Better parking options are also being explored, Hanson said. Hanson said one option being considered is to make all streets around the two parks temporarily one-way on the night of the fireworks show. Hanson said whatever ideas the committee comes up with will be brought to the council for its approval in June.

➜ Hanson said the Paxton EMA’s recent breakfast fundraiser could be its last. “We’re looking at trying to do something different (to raise funds for the agency),” Hanson said. “We think (the breakfast has) ran its course.”

➜ The mayor said he spoke on May 7 with the city attorney about the long-delayed sale of the city-owned airport and city-owned landfill located on the airport’s south edge to two separate private parties. “His suggestion was that we continue with the sale of the airport, the sale of the small area at the very end of the south end of the airport, and maybe arrange for a longterm lease with the gentleman who was wanting to buy (the landfill),” Ingold said. Ingold said he spoke that same night with Dan Schuering, the city’s tax-increment financing attorney, and Schuering was supposed to contact the attorney for the prospective buyer of the landfill to see if that proposal is acceptable. Clearly dissatisfied with the lack of progress on the airport and landfill’s sale, Pacey then asked Ingold: “Mr. Mayor, we were given a deadline, self-imposed, by Mr. Schuering (to get the sale completed), is that correct? He said 45 days at one point, did he not?” Ingold then responded: “I think he said 30 days.” Pacey then said: “My point’s been made.”

➜ The council postponed making a decision on whether to grant a transmission easement to Ameren Illinois.

➜ The council approved allowing the Paxton American Legion to distribute paper poppies for donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 25-26 at the downtown intersections of Patton and Market streets and Pells and Market streets.

➜ The council approved a 30-day permit to allow for the construction of a temporary wall at 125 N. Market St. to accommodate the replacement of the building’s facade. The permit allows the temporary wall to protrude onto the sidewalk in front of the building by about 30 inches.

➜ The council approved the disposal of used office equipment, which Ingold said includes an old postage machine, computer monitor, keyboard, telephone system and electronic recording equipment.

➜ The council voted unanimously to create a seventh Class C liquor license to allow the newly opened Little Chef Diner, 560 John St., to serve all types of alcoholic liquor on its premises. The creation of the seventh Class C license was needed because the existing six Class C licenses were already issued to other businesses. “We did have a beer and wine (permit) available, but they didn’t want that,” Ingold said. “They want to do margaritas and things like that.”

➜ The council voted unanimously to change the zoning of a vacant lot at 201 S. Railroad Ave. — from M-2 (manufacturing) to B-3 (service and wholesale) — to allow for an ice vending machine to be operated there. Justin Burnett, who requested the zoning change, said the ice trailer is 16 feet by 8 feet and would be placed on the paved lot next to the laundromat located to the east. The machine would face Railroad Avenue. Burnett said ice would be made via a reverse-osmosis system, and the price would be half that of bagged ice at other locations. Burnett said the machine will distribute 10- and 20-pound bags of ice as well as reverse-osmosis water in 1- and 5-gallon increments. The planning commission approved the rezoning earlier in the month. “I know some people, they sit here and think, ‘Really?’” Evans told his fellow council members. “But I think a person would be surprised what kind of business this thing could do. I think it’s a no-brainer to pass this.”

➜ The council made plans to “clean up” the city’s zoning ordinance. The city attorney suggested that a professional city planner, not an engineer or attorney, be hired to assist with the process. Miller said he could find out what the expected cost would be and let the council know.

➜ Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said the city should be prepared to start accepting online water-bill payments on Aug. 1.

➜ Ingold said he would like the council’s economic development and long-term planning committees to hold a combined meeting to discuss the city’s plans for an improved downtown streetscape using remaining revolving-loan funds. The meeting will likely be held in June.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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