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Council green lights ATV use within city limits

Staff writer

The Marion City Council approved an ordinance Monday allowing all-terrain vehicles and other special purpose vehicles to be driven within the city limits, so long as it’s not on Main Street.

Police Chief Tyler Mermis said “quite a few people” have expressed interest in driving their ATVs in town. At issue was how to gain access from the hill to the valley. The only way across Luta Creek is Main Street, and since Main Street is a state highway, ATVs are not allowed on it.

The new ordinance allows only golf carts to use the pedestrian sidewalk on the north side of Luta Creek Bridge along Main Street and adjacent to Central Park, so long as they yield to pedestrians in the area.

All other special purpose vehicles cannot cross the creek.

“If people obey by the laws that are set forth in this ordinance, if they can follow the rules and do what they are supposed to and not cause any problems, then there aren’t going to be any issues,” Mermis said. “But if they start disobeying what’s set forth in here, and start doing their own thing, then I’m basically going to come before the council and say we need to look at this again.”

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said that allowing the use of electric vehicles might shrink the city’s carbon footprint. The issue of allowing ATVs in town surfaced after a rural Marion resident unsuccessfully tried to make his ATV street legal, Heitschmidt said.

“We looked at trying to incorporate a longer-term view, given the demographics of our community.” Heitschmidt said. “It’s working well in retirement communities and other rural communities in Kansas, so we’ll give it a shot.”

Anyone caught violating the new ATV law will be subject to a fine between $100 and $500. Repeat offenders will face fines between $250 and $1,000, confiscation of their vehicle and a 30-day jail sentence, according to the ordinance.

ATV owners must obtain registration for their vehicles from the police department, with a choice of $45 per year or $75 for two years. City Administrator Roger Holter said that the stickers have been ordered and will arrive for purchase within 10 days.

Vehicles must also pass an inspection of working brakes, lights, rear view mirror, seatbelts if applicable, and a “slow moving vehicle” sticker must be visible on the back as required by state law. Other requirements of ATV operators include:

  • Operators must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license.
  • Operators must obey all traffic laws, including signaling to turn by either hand or electronic turn signal lamps.
  • Vehicles must be covered by liability insurance.
  • Only ATVs with headlamps and taillights can be driven in town after sunset, but none are allowed to be operated in town between 10 p.m. and sunrise.
  • The driver and any passengers must use only permanent seats as designated by the manufacturer. Passengers must be at least 14. Any passenger under 18 must wear a helmet. Drivers must wear eye protective gear.

The ordinance defines the four kinds of special purpose vehicles now legal to drive in town:

  • All-terrain vehicles are non-highway vehicles less than 50 inches wide that weigh less than 1,500 pounds, travel on three or more low-pressure tires and have a seat the operator straddles.
  • Work-site utility vehicles must be at least 48 inches wide and less than 135 inches long, weigh more than 800 pounds, have four or more low-pressure tires and allow at least two people to sit side-by-side.
  • Golf carts must have at least three wheels, weigh less than 1,800 pounds, carry no more than four people including the driver and not exceed 25 mph.
  • Micro utility trucks are at least 48 inches wide and less than 160 inches long, weigh more than 1,500 pounds and can exceed 40 mph.

Last modified Nov. 13, 2014

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