County hears UTV ordinance proposal

Mike Morrison of Traer (standing) presents a draft ordinance proposing the regulation of all-terrain vehicles and off-road utility vehicles on Tama County roadways. Though no opposition was voiced at the meeting, the board ultimately tabled the measure to revisit at a later date once additional information is able to be gathered. Also pictured are (from left) Merlin Rouse, Dan Hatch, Stan Upah, County Recorder Deb Kupka and County Auditor Laura Kopsa. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

On Monday the Tama County Board of Supervisors discussed a proposal brought forward by Mike Morrison of Traer that seeks to legalize and regulate the operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and off-road utility vehicles (UTV).

Morrison presented a draft ordinance that was pieced together from ordinances previously passed in five other Iowa counties including Cedar, Allamakee, Buchanan, Benton and Washington.

The proposed ordinance states all registered all-terrain vehicles or off-road utility vehicles could be operated on county roadways in Tama County pursuant to restrictions set aside in the ordinance and the restrictions imposed by the Code of Iowa.

Licensing restrictions would require the operator to possess a valid driver’s license and be at least 16 years of age. Operators under the age of 18 would be required to complete an ATV or UTV education course. A speed limit of 35 mph would be set, which Morrison said was consistent across the five counties he’s worked with.

Registration through the Iowa DNR would also be required under the proposed ordinance.

Currently, Tama County has no county ordinance in place to regulate the usage of ATVs and UTVs and abides by regulations set forward in the Code of Iowa that only allow ATV and UTV usage on public roads for agriculture operations or land surveyors and engineers.

Stan Upah, owner of USS Polaris in Toledo, spoke in favor of the county establishing regulations for ATVs and UTVs Mon- day.

“People are on the road. Let’s get some ordinances in place and some speed limits enforced for these people that are already on the roads driving too fast,” Upah said. “Let’s put some teeth into this so that the deputies can write some fines if they need to.”

Upah said he estimates 20-30 percent of his customers travel to Wisconsin or Minnesota each year to participate in rides and events for ATV and UTV riders.

“Let’s provide entertainment within our own state,” Upah said. “Why don’t we leave the money in our state that’s going out of state for this sort of entertainment? Give people an opportunity to live life in the outdoors and get them off their phones and their internet gaming.”

Morrison said he’s been in contact with businesses in Traer, Dysart, Glad- brook and Tama to gather feedback on the potential impact increased ATV and UTV usage may have for them. He said the feedback was unanimously in favor of the measure.

Supervisor Dan Anderson said he was overall in favor of the ordinance but had questions about potential liability the county might incur by taking the action to establish the regulations.

Sheriff Dennis Kucera said during the meeting that after hearing feedback from his deputies over the years on the matter, he’s now in favor of the regulations. He said his office doesn’t receive many complaints from the public about ATV and UTV usage on county roads.

“We do have people complaining that come in from other counties,” Kucera said. “They’ll ride into our county and get angry because we don’t have an ordinance. They often ask why we are so far behind the other counties.”

Kucera’s primary concern was making sure the ordinance and communication to the public was

clear about the age re- striction and license and registration requirements needed for legal operation.

Under the proposed ordinance, key restrictions would include the 35 mph speed limit, working headlights and taillights, a restriction on careless or reckless driving and a limit to carry only the amount of passengers on the vehicle as it was designed for.

The proposed penalties for violation of the ordinance would be a simple misdemeanor charge with a fine up to $315 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Following discussion, the board tabled the ordinance to allow time for the county’s attorney to provide an opinion and for registration options to be further explored.