Freedom vs. safety — Galesburg puts brakes on use of UTVs/golf carts on city streets

Jay Redfern
Galesburg Register-Mail
The Galesburg City Council has said no to the use golf carts, ATVs and utility vehicles on city streets. Council members voted 6-0 against a motion to approve the ordinance during Monday's City Council meeting.

GALESBURG — The Galesburg City Council has said no to the use golf carts, ATVs and utility vehicles on city streets.

Council members voted 6-0 against a motion to approve the ordinance during Monday's City Council meeting. Seventh Ward alderman Larry Cox said he could see both pros and cons of allowing the utility vehicles on city streets, but abstained from the vote, noting he would support the majority.

The proposed ordinance was introduced on first reading at the July 18 agenda at the request of members of the city council. That was after the Traffic Advisory Committee in June recommended against allowing UTVs or golf carts on city streets. City of Galesburg administration had studied the possibility after a request was made during public comment at a city council meeting. The committee said safety concerns and other issues mentioned in its report outweighed some of the benefits that were discussed.

Under the proposed ordinance, the user of a UTV or golf cart would have had to secure an annual permit at a cost of $100 from the city clerk’s office, which would include an inspection of the vehicle conducted by the Galesburg Police Department. Individuals would only be able operate a golf cart or utility task vehicle (UTV) on certain streets within the city of Galesburg.

Community RoundtableShould utility vehicles be allowed on Galesburg streets?

While discussing the ordinance Monday, Cox said it was difficult issue for him because it restricts personal freedom.

"At one time, the United States was the freest country in the world, but now, because of many regulations that local governments, state governments and federal governments have implemented, we're not the freest country in the world," he said. "We have a lot of restrictions on what we can do personally and collectively — where we can go, how we can build, what we can do with our own properties

"So, I struggle with this because this is one where an ordinance that can actually make us freer, rather than more restrictive."

Cox said he believes if users of ATVs followed the guidelines, they would actually be safer than operating a motorcycle.

"We have to weigh between safety and freedom, and that's not an easy choice," Cox said. "So, I will likely abstain and let the majority go with their thoughts and opinion on this, and I'll go along with that."

PreviouslyUTVs/golf carts back on Galesburg City Council agenda. Will they make it to city streets?

Second Ward Alderman Wayne Dennis and Third Ward Alderman Kevin Wallace both raised concerns on insurance requirements for users of the utility vehicles.

Dennis further questioned if a person whose driver's license had been revoked for a DUI could legally operate a UTV on city streets. Police Chief Russ Idle explained the ordinance would require operators to have a valid driver's license and they would be held to the same enforcement standards as operators of motor vehicles.

Fourth Ward Alderman Dwight White said he would vote no based on feedback from constituents in his ward.

"Every call and every person I talked to asked me to vote against this," White said. "And I feel obligated to do what my constituents ask me to do."

In other city council action on Monday:

City to buy new fire engine for $573,136

• The city council unanimously approved the buying a 2023 Alexis Spartan from Alexis Fire Equipment in the amount of $573,136. City administration said the Galesburg Fire Department currently uses a 2011 Spartan Pumper and the unit has served its useful life as a front line apparatus and is in need of replacement.

The current pumper will not be used as a trade for the current purchase; it will be more valuable to the fire department to remain in the fleet as a reserve apparatus to be used when other units are not in service due to repairs or maintenance.

The new fire engine will be paid for through the Vehicle Replacement Fund.

East Main Street lots could be turned into park

• By a 7-0 vote, the city council accepted the donation of two lots of land at 1965 and 1969 E. Main St. for future use as a city park.

The city accepted the donation from David Parochetti. The vacant lot is the former home of Virginia's Ice Cream shop.

The city will demolish the residential structure and remove the concrete from the vacant parcel. The anticipated demolition expense of $18,000 to $22,000 would be paid from the Property Redevelopment Fund

If funds become available, and a zoning amendment approved, the lots could be turned into a park, like Full Viewpoint Park at the northeast corner of Kellogg and Ferris streets.

Financial assistance for coffee shop approved despite objection

• The city council approved funding for two businesses through the city’s new Minority/Woman-Owned Business Startup Assistance program. 

Dame Fine Coffee, LLC received $45,000 in financial assistance from three sources for a proposed new coffee shop at East Main Street and Illinois Avenue. The Knox County Area Partnership Review Committee had recommended the approval of a $10,000 Startup grant, a $10,000 Southside Occupancy grant, and $25,000 for Business Collateral Assistance.

Dame Fine Coffee is co-owned by Alyssa Vancil and her husband Dillan and already operates a bricks-and-mortar location in Monmouth and a beverage food truck on Henderson Street.

Alderman White abstained from voting the funding for Dame Fine Coffee, saying he believes the funding for the Southside Occupancy Grant went against the spirit of the program.

"That means I just have to put anything on the south side of Main Street to qualify for that?" White said. "It was my understanding we wanted things south of Main Street, not on the south side of Main Street. This kind of undercuts what, to me, the whole program is for.

"I think it's a skirt, a skirt around the real reason for this whole program. There's nothing on the south side in my territory. There's pot stores, liquor stores and high end convenience stores in my neighborhood. I want to see some of this money, these incentives used in my neighborhood, in the Fourth Ward. I don't want to see it on Main Street.

He added, "I want to see some minorities, some African Americans that we're working to find and put in there."

Mayor Peter Schwartzman countered the owners of Dame Fine Coffee were following the guidelines set forth in the assistance programs, adding "you guys voted on these rules. If we want to change the rules in the future, we can do that.

"I want to emphasize, what we have in front of us today are these two people who have made an effort to start a business in our community, and we have these incentives and they are following the rules."

Schwartzman said he thinks it's ambiguous what qualifies as the south side.

"Is it south of Main Street? South of Losey Street? South of North Street?" the mayor said. "If you look at the geographic center of Galesburg, it's where (the former) Cottage Hospital is. So anything south of that, in theory, is the south side. But I understand what you are saying, and I'm think there's a lot of truth in what you are saying.

"I just want to be receptive to this family and their efforts to have a business in our city."

Previously:Coffee shop, sports center among businesses seeking Galesburg minority grants

White later apologized for some of his remarks during closing comments.

"I want to apologize for what I said, because I speak from the heart," White said. "It's not about a specific business, or your business. It's about the strife and struggle African Americans have in this nation. We have a harder time buying a home. We have a harder time getting a job. We have a harder time just surviving in this nation. We have a harder time being able to vote.

"As a person of color, it's something we have to struggle with, everyday."

He added, "I'm trying to see businesses come to my ward, which is the Fourth Ward. It used to be a thriving, fabulous part of town to live in. Now, if I don't have a car, I can't get nothing, unless I want to go and get some liquor. So we put liquor stores in my neighborhood, but we don't put other stores in my neighborhood.

"That's my passion, and that's what I have a struggle with, and that's why I speak."

Proposed sports academy receives Southside Occupancy grant

• Finally, the council approved by a 6-0 vote a $10,000 Southside Occupancy Grant for All Star Sports Academy, which is owned by Michael Spinks. Spinks plans to buy property at 2051/2085 Grand Ave. and demolish existing structures there to eventually build a “multi-sport functional center.” Spinks plans to establish a new building for his business that includes batting cages, arcade games and a small retail space.