Parkersburg City Council amends motorized bike ordinance again

Measure coming back for another reading May 28

Parkersburg City Councilman Eric Barber, right, speaks during discussion of an ordinance regulating motorized bicycles at Tuesday’s council meeting as Councilman Bob Mercer listens. An amendment to the ordinance was approved, meaning it will come back to council for a fourth, and potentially final, reading on May 28. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Another City Council agenda with the proposed motorized bike ordinance, another amendment, another “final” reading at an upcoming meeting.

But it might not end there.

Parkersburg City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to add a requirement that riders of motorized bicycles wear helmets, a substantial enough change to the ordinance first considered at the March 26 meeting that it must come back for another reading May 28. Due to an apparent miscommunication, council voted on the amended ordinance and moved on to the next item on the agenda before Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl was able to offer another amendment.

“My general feeling is we’ve amended the heck out of this thing,” Councilman John Reed said in arguing to pass it unchanged.

The ordinance requires motorized bicycle riders to obey speed limits and other traffic laws or face a fine of $25 to $100. At the March 26 meeting, it was considered for submission to West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule Board, but a provision allowing police to impound the bikes at their discretion if the alleged violator did not have a driver’s license — the only portion that required home rule approval — was removed.

Parkersburg Finance Director Eric Jiles, right, answers questions about an ordinance during Tuesday’s City Council meeting at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

The amended version passed 7-1 on first reading at the April 2 meeting. On April 16, multiple amendments were offered, including one requiring helmets that failed in a 4-4 tie. A 6-2 vote added a requirement for riders to wear fluorescent vests or shirts, meaning another final reading was required at Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman Eric Barber, who was absent April 16, made the motion to require headgear that meets the standard of a “protected bicycle helmet.” Reed said the use of the bikes is increasing due to warmer weather and the ordinance needs to be enacted so police can begin enforcing it and provide feedback on what changes, if any, need to be made.

“I think the best people to tell us what needs amended are the police officers out here doing the job,” he said.

The motion passed with Reed, Fox and Councilmen J.R. Carpenter and Zach Stanley opposed.

Kuhl asked about making other amendments, and council President Mike Reynolds said they were voting on the ordinance as amended. It passed unanimously, and Reynolds asked for the next ordinance to be read. Kuhl then said she and Barber had other amendments to the motorized bike ordinance.

Parkersburg City Councilman J.R. Carpenter asks a question during Tuesday’s council meeting at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“You’re going to have to save them for next council meeting, regardless of Mr. Reed’s objections,” Barber said.

After the meeting, Kuhl said she planned to offer an amendment requiring carts pulled behind the bikes to have reflectors and expected Barber to propose one mandating baffles to limit the noise produced by the bikes. Kuhl made a motion to require baffles at the April 16 meeting, and it died for lack of a second.

If approved, those amendments would then require another reading of the ordinance at council’s first meeting in June.

Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amending city regulations for off-street parking related to stormwater runoff and aesthetic improvements on a 7-2 vote, with Carpenter and Fox opposed. Carpenter said he supported the provisions relating to commercial parking lots but questioned the inclusion of a line requiring all off-street parking areas and access drives, including those for residential use, to be graded and surfaced with an asphaltic or cement binder.

Carpenter asked if that would require people who park boats in their yards for the winter to put in a cement pad, something council’s Public Works Committee discussed two years ago but did not pursue. Parkersburg City Attorney Joe Santer said it would not, since boats, campers and the like are parked in yards on a temporary basis. The language in the ordinance would only apply to permanent off-street parking for new construction or existing property that is substantially changed.

Parkersburg City Attorney Joe Santer, right, answers a question during Tuesday’s council meeting as Development Director Rickie Yeager listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“No offense, but I don’t trust it,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter proposed an amendment that the asphalt/cement surface not be required for “owner-occupied, single-family housing,” but it failed on a 7-2 vote, with he and Fox voting in favor.

In other business:

∫ Council unanimously approved a series of end-of-the-fiscal-year budget revisions, after also voting 9-0 to approve an amendment requested by Mayor Tom Joyce. That shifted $250,000 from the contractual services line item in the Street Department to the capital reserve fund. The money was originally proposed to repair a retaining wall that failed in February on Smithfield Street, but the city has not received any bids to do the work.

∫ Joyce announced the city’s pools will open on Friday, May 31, at no charge and a dedication ceremony for the new splash pad and improvements at the City and Southwood Park pools will be held at 11:30 a.m. that day.

∫ Council unanimously approved a trio of ordinances reclassifying multiple positions based on a recent salary survey; changing the salary ranges of the municipal judge, city attorney and assistant city attorney; and giving a 48-cents-an-hour raise to parks and recreation employees who are certified pool operators. The higher salaries are all accounted for in the 2019-20 budget.

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