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Jonesboro rescinds golf cart ordinance

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Jonesboro residents who own golf carts may have to wait some time before their carts are allowed to hit the streets again.

While the city's legal advisors work to craft a broader ordinance allowing golf cart travel throughout the city, the Jonesboro City Council voted 4-3 on Monday to repeal a golf cart ordinance passed last year allowing travel in limited areas.

Opinions on how best to address the golf cart ordinance were deeply split, with Councilmen Roger Grider, Rick Yonce, and Clarence Mann voting in favor of rescinding the ordinance, and Councilmen Billy Powell, Wallace Norrington, and Bobby Wiggins voting against scrapping the ordinance. Mayor Luther Maddox broke the tie, voting to abolish the golf cart ordinance and to task the city's attorney with creating a new one that will allow golf cart travel throughout the city.

The ordinance repealed Monday banned golf cart travel along certain stretches of highway, stranding some residents within their neighborhoods. Maddox said the city is dedicated to crafting a fairer ordinance.

"We wanted to do something good," Maddox said. "We adopted it too quick. We are going to have to tweak it."

The city adopted a golf cart ordinance in August of last year. Some residents expressed anger at the council's decision, arguing the council is standing in the way of progress.

"I think it's tacky to bring it up at this point," said David Barron, a Jonesboro resident and golf cart owner. "If we are going to be a golf cart city, let's be a golf cart city. Is it that easy to make up laws and break them?"

"Peachtree City started this and it [Jonesboro's golf cart ordinance] was like moving forward," said Jonesboro resident, Larry Piner, who does not own a golf cart. "It was all good until these council members began bickering amongst themselves. You have three council members who don't want the golf carts because the other three want them."

Five golf carts are currently registered with the city, including one golf cart owned by the Jonesboro Police Department and one belonging to Powell. Jonesboro resident, Anne Wise, believes the city is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

"It's a good thing," Wise said. "It's going to grow. You can't just scrap it because after a year or 18 months you don't think it's done good enough. You've [the City Council] worked long and hard on getting the sanitation. If that doesn't pay out in a year, are you going to scrap that also?"

(The City of Jonesboro is planning to take over garbage collection services in January.)

While the council vowed to draft a better ordinance, Norrington expressed doubts about the council's sincerity.

"To kill it, to not fix it, and let it die ... that's the wrong thing to do," Norrington said. "If we keep it, I think we'll be more challenged to fix it. If we repeal it, it might never get fixed."

Grider, who made the motion to repeal the ordinance, said the city should explore state and local laws in creating a golf cart ordinance that is universal.

"I think we just need to compromise on this," Grider said. "We can just charge our attorney to finding something that will apply to all areas of the city. That would seem the fair thing to do and that would put everybody on a level playing field ... nobody could ride until everybody could ride."

In another major decision Monday, the City of Jonesboro selected a contractor for the city's streetscape program. The council voted to award a $2.7 million contract to CMES, Inc., to complete phase one of the project, which will include burying the electrical, telephone and cable lines along Main and McDonough streets, between Spring and College streets.

Maddox said the decision is a major step forward in the city's desire to improve its downtown.

"We've been working on this since 2003," Maddox said. "I'm glad we could come this far. I think it shows that we can work together. It will improve the infrastructure and [generate] some pride in our city."

Maddox said construction on the project would not likely take place until the beginning of 2010.

The council also voted unanimously to pursue a $550,000 grant to improve drainage, add sidewalks and resurface roads around Irvin Street in Jonesboro. According to Tommy Newsome, the city's engineering consultant, the city has until Dec. 18 to apply for the grant, which is being offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for "shovel-ready projects."

In order to be more competitive for the grant, the city will pay for the cost of planning and engineering using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money. Newsome believes the city has a good chance of obtaining the grant.

"It [the cost of planning and engineering] is not pinpointed, but usually with these projects, the engineering and construction inspection cost is about 10 to 12 percent of the total project cost," Newsome said. "To have the construction documents ready makes the application stronger and more likely to be funded."