Motorized bike ordinance amended, approved by Parkersburg City Council

Parkersburg High School swim coach Terry Nisewarner, left, discusses the state championships won by the girls swim team and individual male and female athletes in February during Tuesday’s Parkersburg City Council meeting. It was the second straight state title for the girls team, who was recognized along with individual winners at the meeting. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A last-second appeal from the city attorney convinced at least two Parkersburg City Council members to change their votes and support an ordinance defining and regulating motorized bicycles that passed unanimously Tuesday evening.

But after the ordinance was amended on what was supposed to be its final reading to require riders to wear reflective vests, the ordinance will come back for one more reading in May.

Councilman John Reed said he couldn’t support the measure after an amendment last month to remove a provision giving police officers the discretion to impound motorized bikes if an individual cited for a violation did not have a driver’s license. While a license is not required to operate the bikes, impounding was seen as an option to ensure an individual to paid if a fine was assessed.

Reed said the only recourse if someone doesn’t pay a fine is to confiscate their driver’s license. In his role as executive director of the Wood County Solid Waste Authority, he said he’s seen people ignore citations because their license was already suspended.

“To say there’s a $25 penalty but if you don’t have a driver’s license you don’t have to pay it, I think is ridiculous,” Reed said.

The back-to-back AAA state champion Parkersburg High School girls basketball team and its coaches receive a standing ovation during Tuesday’s Parkersburg City Council meeting. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Councilman J.R. Carpenter argued there are other ways to collect those fees, including filing a civil action.

Reed said he could not vote for the ordinance because of the change, a position echoed by Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl.

But City Attorney Joe Santer told council members “you need to pass this,” even without the impound provision he wrote into the original ordinance.

“Right now there is nothing regulating these bicycles,” Santer said. “This ordinance will protect the citizens; it will protect the bike riders.”

Reed said he would vote “yes” at Santer’s recommendation and the ordinance passed 8-0, with Councilman Eric Barber absent.

Parkersburg City Attorney Joe Santer, right, speaks during debate over an ordinance regulating motorized bicycles during Tuesday’s City Council meeting as Finance Director Eric Jiles listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

The amendment requiring reflective vests was the only one of three proposed by Kuhl that passed. That happened on a 6-2 vote, with Councilmen Zach Stanley and Jeff Fox opposed.

Kuhl offered a motion requiring baffles to be on the bikes to reduce noise and keep the sound no louder than 90 decibels, but it died for lack of a second. An amendment to require riders to wear U.S. Department of Transportation-certified helmets failed in a 4-4 tie, with Kuhl, Councilmen Dave McCrady and Bob Mercer and Council President Mike Reynolds voting for it.

Parkersburg resident Calvin Kirby, who rides a motorized bike, said after the meeting that he had no problem with the amendments that failed but found the requirement of a reflective vest excessive.

“I thought that’s what the headlights and taillights were for,” he said. “Why do I have to wear a reflective vest during the day?”

In other business, council approved new rates for the City and Southwood Park pools 8-0.

Parkersburg City Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl, left, and Councilman John Reed, center, speak with Parkersburg resident and motorized bicyclist Calvin Kirby outside council chambers following Tuesday’s meeting, during which council approved an amended ordinance regulating motorized bikes. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

No one spoke at a public hearing on the rates, which will be $4 for daily admission for ages 3-17, 55 and older and veterans and $6 for people in the 18-54 age range. Season passes will be $75 for kids, seniors and veterans and $95 for other adults, if they are city residents. The cost for non-residents would be $90 and $110, respectively.

Admission will cover the pool and its neighboring feature — the water slide at Southwood and the new splash pad at City Park.

Fox made a motion to reduce the rates for rentals of the pools for designated nonprofits by 30 percent, but it failed on a 5-3 vote, with Fox, Carpenter and Mercer supporting it.

Council also voted 8-0 to lay the levy rates for the upcoming fiscal year. Finance Director Eric Jiles previously said the rate will be slightly lower than the current year, thanks to an increase in property valuation due to Hino Motors bringing the former Coldwater Creek distribution center back on the tax rolls.