By Joel Hall
In August of last year, the Jonesboro City Council voted 5-1 to allow citizens to drive golf carts within certain areas of the city. A little more than a year after the ordinance's approval, the city is considering banning the carts from city streets.
According to city officials, the council will consider repealing the golf cart ordinance during its next regular business meeting, scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.
City Councilman Billy Powell, one of five registered, golf cart owners in the city, and a vocal proponent of the ordinance, said he believes the motion to repeal it is "political retaliation" on the part of some members of the council.
"When we did this last year, gas was $4 a gallon," Powell said. "What I would like to see done is leave it, and increase the [number of] people who can use it. It's [the proposed motion is] not a way to tweak it. This is abolishing it."
Powell said that he and Councilman Rick Yonce drafted the original golf cart ordinance.
Yonce could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Based on safety concerns, Councilman Bobby Wiggins was the lone member to disapprove of the ordinance last year. Since then, other council members have questioned the fairness of the ordinance, as some neighborhoods fall outside the boundaries in which the golf carts can operate, particularly areas along Raymond Street, Sunnybrook Drive, and Batiste Park Road.
"I was in support of it [the ordinance] when it was written," said Councilman Clarence Mann. "Since that time, I have been made aware that there are three sections of the city where people can't even ride the golf carts out of their neighborhood. I think it needs to be rewritten to benefit every citizen, and not a few."
Ed Wise, a Jonesboro resident and golf cart owner, said that since the ordinance's approval, several residents have made significant investments in golf carts and golf cart equipment. Wise's cart, which he used to commute to and from work, is equipped with custom rims and a stereo system.
"We plucked out all this money for the golf carts, and now they are taking it away," Wise said. "There are grants out there [to make more areas golf cart accessible]. There is always a solution. The problem with this city is that they [the city council] are always looking for ways not to do things, instead of ways to do things."
Bobby Lester, another resident and golf cart owner, said he believes the benefits of having a golf cart ordinance outweigh the risks. "There have been no accidents, no citations, and no complaints I have been made aware of," Lester said. "They save on pollution. It's saved me a good bit of money. This just seems like tit-for-tat."
In September, the city council voted down a proposed amendment to the golf cart ordinance that would have extended the southern boundary of golf-cart travel to the Jonesboro Police Station. The current ordinance prohibits golf cart travel on many major streets.
Some council members said they believe the ordinance is unsafe. "I don't think our streets are made for it," Wiggins said. "I think somebody is going to get killed. I'm opposed to it because of safety, and because the whole city isn't considered."
Wiggins said he would be in favor of the ordinance, if it was written in a way that gives "equal rights" to all Jonesboro residents, and if it was "what citizens wanted."
Councilman Roger Grider said he believes the ordinance has not lived up to its promises.
"Whenever the golf cart ordinance was proposed to us, we were going to try to see if it would generate some interest in the city," Grider said. "We thought we could move more real estate, or get some more people to move here, but that hasn't materialized. It is an ordinance that benefits a select few."