Sheriff Dusty Terrill’s statement on Mercer County utility vehicle ordinance
I would fully support a lawfully written ordinance that would fully protect those enjoying their utility vehicle in a legal way. Sadly, the way this is being approached does not offer any legal protections to our county citizens. If the Ordinance is not lawful it offers no protection from prosecution, only a false sense of security.
The law is very clearly written and must be applied in ordinance legally for that ordinance to protect people from prosecution.
My, nor the State's Attorney's, opinion or stance on whether we would or would not prosecute UTV operators should not be considered during this conversation as we are only temporary. I may not be in this position in 2 years. We, as citizens, need to work on finding a way to make this happen in the long term, not short term, to have any real benefit to the people or the county.
I have researched fully on ways to make this happen, as I would love to be able to drive one as well. The law is clear as to how this can happen but it must be followed to eliminate the risk of State Police, Illinois Conservation Police, or even the next Sheriff deciding to start writing tickets and all the work that was done will be for nothing.
The law 625 ILCS 5/11-1426.1 states the following important points.
The speed limit must be 35 mph or less. This cannot be a dual speed limit, all vehicles on the designated road would be limited to 35mph. The speed limit must be posted.
Municipality, township or county may by ordinance allow use of these vehicles on roadways in its jurisdiction. There is some very important language here and it is the following;
"Municipality, township or county.... roadways in its jurisdiction" We have seen such ordinances work without much issue in the municipalities on roads under their jurisdiction, (within the towns). Obviously, the municipalities cannot authorize use on County roads. The challenge for us is that the County cannot authorize the use on roads that are not county roads. County only has roads in their jurisdiction that are main thoroughfares, such as Knoxville Road, Joy Black Top, Seaton/Millersburg Road and the New Boston Black Top to name a few. These roads, for obvious reasons, cannot be limited to a 35 mph zone. Work traffic could not be expected to travel 35 mph on these main county roads. I am confident that the County cannot authorize the use of UTV's on township roads that they do not fund, maintain or make traffic control decisions on, only the township supervisors can. The statute would not have mentioned the different jurisdictions if it were not important.
I firmly believe that this issue needs to be addressed on the township level so that designated routes on township roads could be chosen, signs posted and the speed limit lowered to 35 so that those law-abiding citizens can utilize their utility vehicles without risk of criminal prosecution.
I have provided information to the County Administrator regarding state level grants that would assist the County in developing, operating, maintaining and acquiring land for off highway vehicle use.
I believe this may be a great opportunity for our citizens and the County but those on the County Board, that we elected to serve us, must take all steps to provide a level of protection that the people deserve by only considering lawful action that provides that protection.
I am hopeful that this is addressed in a proper, lawful way to provide our friends and family the protections that they deserve, and not based on a rushed plan that fails in the end.
Sheriff Dustin Terrill