Nearly two months after Midwest Sports Center co-owner Josh Harris spoke before the Farmington City Council at its Dec. 13 meeting about the city allowing the use of side-by-side recreational vehicles on city roads, it looks like a final decision may be no more than a week away.
Speaking in favor of the use of the vehicles’ use, Harris said, “A lot of our surrounding communities allow side-by-side vehicles to be operated by persons that have a motor vehicle operator’s license. They can be operated in town, but they can’t be on any state highways.
“These are considered agricultural equipment, like a tractor would be. Some people use them for that, and some don’t, but to run down and pick up an ice cream or go get gas for your lawn mower or run into the park to watch fireworks — it’s really good family fun.”
Harris noted that Farmington is “the only city around that doesn’t allow” the use of side-by-sides within its city limits.
“We sell them in Farmington, they collect the sales tax dollars off what we sell, of course,” he told the Daily Journal. “I think they’re open to the idea, so right now, as I understand, it’s still in the [Public Safety Committee]. So, the city of Farmington is looking at the safety aspect to make sure that no one is going to be getting hurt, which is good.
“They’re taking a closer look at it. They’ve got to be able to justify it, but this market has changed because this opens it up to a lot of people. Bicyclists ride their bicycles through town, you know? I know it’s different, but it is transportation and I tell you it could be a revenue generator for the city too. ’You want to ride in the city of Farmington? You’ve got to pay $25 to get a sticker.’”
Harris admitted there are dangerous aspects to driving a side-by-side on city streets.
“If you don’t pay attention, it’s like driving a car,” he said. “If you cross the highway, you’ve got to look both ways. Wear your seat belt while you’re driving. Know your limitations of what you can, and you cannot do. A lot of it is common sense.
“If the city will take a closer look at it — which they are — and be open to what the people really do want — because they do want this to happen — and I think that the city does. I really do. As a matter of fact, the city mayor wanted to look at it closer. I’m not saying he wants to do it, but he is definitely taking it under consideration. [City Administrator] Greg Beavers, the same way. He said, ‘Hey, let’s take a look at this.’”
Harris was glad that the city council appeared open to the idea, but was aware that Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker had some serious hesitations about allowing the use of recreation vehicles on city streets.
“On the safety side, our police chief is a little apprehensive — which is good too,” he said. “There’s got to be a balance. I think Mr. Baker is just wanting to err on the side of caution to make sure that if we do this, what could happen? So, they did forward it to the safety committee to look at a little bit closer. You know, our police are out there everyday. They see this stuff.”
At the Farmington City Council’s Jan. 28 meeting, it quickly became obvious that the council members might not be as keen on Harris’ idea as he might have hoped.
After presenting the first part of the monthly Public Safety Committee report to Mayor Larry Forsythe and the council, Councilman Wayne Linnenbringer turned the floor over to Farmington the police chief to discuss the use of recreational vehicles on city streets.
Addressing the board, Baker informed the council that he had been investigating the matter since the December meeting and said he was presenting them with two options.
“The first option I don’t recommend due to the amount of traffic that we have in the city,” he said. “But the council does have the option to adopt an ordinance allowing these type of vehicles to operate on the roadways on an everyday basis. The city can assess a $15 fee to each motor.
“The second option is basically there is no council action needed. The sponsored event would just need to contact the police department and fill out a parade permit where we could get information such as the date and time of the event; the actual route of the event; the amount of vehicles that would possibly be going through our city; and then have it approved by the chief of police. The city council could also have them provide proof of insurance to make sure that in case there was an accident, that they would have liability insurance.”
Mayor Larry Forsythe asked Chief Baker what would happen if one of the riders left the “parade route” by turning off onto another block.
Baker replied, “Then we wouldn’t allow them to do it the next time. It would be up to the city — actually my decision — to allow them to have another parade if they’re not going to abide by the stipulations of the permit.”
The general assessment of the council members was that they preferred to go with Chief Baker’s suggestion that the city not approve an ordinance for everyday use of side-by-sides on Farmington’s city streets, but instead leave things the way they are currently with use of such vehicles only being allowed on special occasions after requesting and receiving a parade permit.
While there was no official vote taken on the matter, Forsythe asked Baker to meet with Harris to discuss the matter, with official action likely to be taken at the council’s Feb. 25 meeting.
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or firstname.lastname@example.org