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Golf carts, 4-wheelers could be allowed in city

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Some Morris residents might soon be able to ride golf carts and 4-wheelers in the city limits.

The Morris City Council on Tuesday heard from several residents who support using the vehicles for rides to work and to run errands.

Council member Bill Storck raised the possibility of using alternative transportation at a council meeting in June, both because of the rising price of fuel and because other communities allow the use with, seemingly, few problems.

The council did not make a final decision on the issue Tuesday, but at least three members appear ready to allow the use provided safety measures are proven adequate. The council approved forming a committee consisting of City Manager Blaine Hill, City Attorney Charles Glasrud, Chief of Police Jim Beauregard and two residents. One resident at Tuesday's meeting, Randy Sims, agreed to serve on the committee.

Glasrud's office contacted several Minnesota cities that allow the use of golf carts and 4-wheelers for transportation. The permitted uses vary, from driving golf carts from homes to the golf course only (Ortonville) to those that permit more liberal uses within city limits.

Glasrud said state law permits the use of golf carts and 4-wheelers if users qualify for a permit and insurance, and if users can prove competence in operation. The law requires that the use of the vehicles be limited to sunrise to sunset.

Cities can impose other restrictions, such as age and route restrictions, but can't make their local ordinances more lenient than the state statute, Glasrud said.

Cities in the region that allow or are contemplating allowing the use of alternative vehicles include Montevideo and Willmar.

Beauregard said last month that he's not enthusiastic about allowing golf carts and 4-wheelers on city streets because of safety concerns. Traffic in the city can be intense at times, and the alternative modes of transportation don't provide the safety of conventional vehicles.

But supporters of the plan counter that bicycles already are allowed on all streets, as are other motorized vehicles, such as moped and scooters.

Sims said he and other supporters didn't want unfettered access to streets at all hours.

"It's not to go down main street," he said. "It's to go back and forth to work. I'm sure a lot of people would like to use them to go to the grocery store."

Sims said he would support restrictions, such as curfews and route restrictions.

Council member Jeff Miller said he would support safe, controlled use of golf carts and 4-wheelers. He also noted that the privilege could be quickly rescinded if abused.

"Economically, it makes sense to try it," Miller said. "People will know they have to act like an adult and be responsible, and if they don't it's going to go away."

Morris Mayor Sheldon Giese also appeared to support the idea, but added that there are "a lot of hoops to jump through" before carts and quads are cruising through town.

After the committee drafts an ordinance, it will need two official readings before the council could vote on adopting it. If the measure is approved, there's a 30-day waiting period.

"It's a couple month process," Hill said.

In other city business:

• The council approved contracts for two architectural companies to work on the elementary school re-use.

Using grant money from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the city hired Stahl Architects, of Fargo, for structural designs for three model "green" houses that will be built on the property.

The contract for Stahl Architects was approved at $11,300.

Treeline, a landscape architectural company in Minneapolis, was awarded the contract for landscape designs of the property. The Treeline contract was for $7,500.

The firms are expected to complete their work by October. The model homes will be built soon after, and the city will seek other grant money to fund the construction.

• In a related item, the council approved paying Dovetail Partners $3,350 for work the company has done related to the school property re-use.

The funds will come from excess Tax Increment Financing money the city obtained when it closed out several TIF districts in the city this spring, Hill said.

"In the end, this is a great use of the (TIF) money, for development," Hill said. "(Dovetail) has been worth every penny that they're asking for. They've done a lot more work than they're billing us for."

Dovetail officials attended several meetings in Morris to work on the redevelopment planning for the elementary as a "green" neighborhood.

• The city and the Aviation Division of the Minnesota Department of Transportation reached agreement on funding for airport projects.

The state will fund 66 percent of the $17,000 estimated to purchase a new mower at Morris Airport. The state also will pay 80 percent of the $7,300 estimated for roof repairs at the airport.