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This driving problem is stubborn as a Mule

Staff writer

Eugene Enos is frustrated.

After health issues caused him to give up his car, a simple trip to the doctor meant coordinating with his son, who took off work to drive him.

Seeking a better solution, Enos spent $8,000 for an all-terrain vehicle and an additional $2,000 trying to make it street legal.

He even got Police Chief Tyler Mermis to sign off on the idea — or so he thought.

Mermis initially told Enos it would be fine if he drove his Mule to town. Only later did he discover Enos was talking about a Kawasaki Mule, making the request a horse of a different color.

Enos wants to use his ATV to go to the pharmacy, food store, and waste transfer station.

“People can drive their mowers down the street, and the Chamber (of Commerce) can drive a John Deere Gator during special events, but I’ve been told that if I drive into town, then I’ll get a ticket,” he said. “All I want to do is run my errands.”

The problem is, the mowers and other non-licensed vehicles Enos has seen on the street aren’t legal, and the police chief can’t give him permission to do something that breaks the law.

“I thought it was a four-legged animal,” Chief Tyler Mermis said. “Once I realized it was an ATV, I told him it was illegal.

“He wanted an exemption. But if I do that for him then I’d have to for everyone else, and I can’t do that.”

Enos estimates he would travel from his rural Marion home to town only once a week.

To make his ATV street-legal he has added mirrors, lights, and other items. He said he doesn’t drive more than 20 mph and currently drives it around Peabody and the county lake.

“It’s a simple request,” he said.

The city is considering an ordinance that would allow residents to drive ATVs on city streets other than where it is illegal by state law.

But even if the city were to allow Enos and others to use ATVs on city streets, they still might not be able to get to where they want to go.

There is no way except Main St. to get across Luta Creek, and because Main St. is a state highway, ATVs are illegal on it.

“We’re all for it,” Mermis said, “but only if we can find some way to get people safely up the hill without driving on people’s property or the street and breaking state law.”

He is looking for a route that would allow Enos and others to use the sidewalks to gain access from the hill to the valley before proposing the ordinance late in late August or early in September.

Mermis said several residents want to use ATVs on city streets.

“There’s more than you think,” he said. “If you live by the golf course and look out the windows often enough, you will see golf carts go by.”

But even if the council agrees on an ordinance, Enos still might not be able to drive his ATV in town legally.

State law and the proposed ordinances would allow ATVs on streets only if the driver has a valid driver’s license. Enos gave up his license for medical reasons. To get his license back he would have to pass a written test and a driving test.

An alternative, according to Gayla Ratzlaff of the county Department on Aging, is to use a county van, which is available first come, first serve.

Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. The van was used four times last week.

Last modified July 30, 2014

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