CHESTER - Golf cart advocates, including the mother of a handicapped young man, took Chester City Council to task Monday night for banning the vehicles at its Oct. 1 meeting.
In an emotional, unusually well-attended meeting, five people spoke up in favor of the city regulating, rather than banning, golf carts. One of the residents, Manny Volino, said he doesn't own a golf cart but believes people should have the right to drive them in the city.
"Golf carts have been on the streets of Chester for many years," Volino said. "They've never been an issue. ... Most of the golf carts are used on the back streets anyway."
City council has been debating the issue for months because of several near-accidents and other safety concerns. That debate came to a head Oct. 1, when council voted 3-2 to ban them entirely from city streets.
West Virginia allows golf carts on city streets as a "low speed vehicle," provided the speed limit is 25 mph or less. State law requires a title and registration, insurance, an inspection and a valid driver's license, while also incorporating the more stringent requirements of federal law.
City Solicitor April Raines and Mayor Ken Morris said Oct. 1 that none of the golf carts being used in Chester were street-legal. Several golf cart owners objected, saying they had modified their vehicles, and would be willing to modify them more, according to state and federal law.
Affected residents returned Monday to repeat their objections.
"We're adults. We're not children, and I think you should treat us as such," said former city councilwoman Dana Picciarelli, who drives a golf cart owned by her mother, Delores Casto.
Picciarelli's daughter, Toni Snyder, joined her mother in asking council to reconsider its vote.
Former city councilman Joe Geisse said, "Given the opportunity, I can make my golf cart completely compliant with state code."
Although not on the agenda, Heidi Laneve spoke up on behalf of her son, Andrew, 18, who relies on a golf cart to get around town. Andrew Laneve suffers from VATER syndrome and avascular necrosis of the hip.
"I realize that people use them for leisure, but for him it's not that way," Laneve said in an emotional plea. "That golf cart is his main form of transportation. You are taking this away from him, and that is not fair."
Laneve said her son has been "completely homebound" since golf carts were banned two weeks ago. He has a scooter, but it is permitted only on sidewalks, she said.
City Clerk Sandra Parkins, leading the meeting in place of the absent mayor, then asked council if it wanted to reconsider the issue. Councilman Mike Dotson, who, with Councilman Steve Shuman, voted against the ban Oct. 1, made a motion that the city regulate golf carts instead. The motion was defeated by a vote of 2-3.
Councilman Dennis Murray, whose motion Oct. 1 led to the ban, defended his position Monday. Murray said golf carts are not permitted on sidewalks, and they're not safe on Carolina Avenue (state Route 2).
"Would I do it on Route 2? Absolutely not. I think it's ludicrous," he said.
Asked by Picciarelli to cite any accidents in the city involving golf carts, Murray said, "We've been lucky."
Parkins said council will have to vote on a written version of the ban at its next meeting.
In other business, council:
Agreed to keep summer workers on the street department for a few more weeks to help with patching work;
Agreed to replace the transmission on the police department's 2006 Dodge Charger; and
Learned that trick-or-treat will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 31.
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