Council nixes chief’s golf cart proposal

Redistricting saga (finally) over as city okays plan on third try
Reporter Editor

You’ll only be seeing golf carts at the country club, not on the streets of Rockdale, after the city council unanimously teed off on Police Chief Thomas Harris’s proposal to “legalize” them Monday.

Harris said after the meeting police will have no other choice than to enforce existing laws which prohibit the operation of golf carts on city streets.

In a lively, lengthy session at City Hall, the council finally resolved what turned out to be an agonizing decision on ward redistricting.

Motions to adopt two plans died for lack of a second and action was only taken after a plea from City Manager Kelvin Knauf.

GOLF CARTS—Harris said he submitted a proposal to try and offer a solution to the current situation in which some Rockdale residents operate golf carts like automobiles on city streets.

Under the proposal, golf cart owners would register their vehicles with the city and pay a one-time fee of $25.

“At that time we’d check out the carts, be sure they were street legal with the appropriate safety equipment,” Harris said.

Anyone stopped while not driving a registered, street-legal cart could be fined up to $200, he said.

That didn’t sit well with the council which asked if police had been enforcing current traffic laws which would make street operation of golf carts illegal.

“No, and we can’t keep doing it that way,” Harris said. “We can’t ignore it. That’s why I’m bringing this to you tonight. If you don’t want to do it, let me know.”

“Why can’t we just say we’ll start enforcing the law?” Councilman Allan Miller asked. He quickly made a motion to reject the plan, and the motion passed unanimously.

“ We’ve got more than one person doing this (golf carts),” Harris said. “We just can’t have a situation where people call up and say ‘you’re letting so-and-so do it, why can’t I’?”

“We will start enforcing the current law,” he said. “We will give tickets to people riding golf carts on city streets.”

Harris said persons with handicapped scooters are exempt from the current law, so long as they are not riding those vehicles on streets with speed limits above 35 miles per hour.

REDISTRICTING—In past years redistricting after censuses has been a simple matter for city councils.

Rockdale has only two wards and city redistricting involves drawing a line between them, making sure an approximate equal number of persons reside in each ward and satisfying federal requirements on number of minority voters.

Attorney Tom Pollan, who has been working on redistricting for several months presented three maps, all of which he said would satisfy the U. S. Department of Justice.

He said the maps, which drew the dividing line in slightly different ways, were within the 10-percent deviation within the wards allowed by federal guidelines.

Pollan said the deviation was 3.84 percent for Plan A, 7.35 percent for Plan B and 0.54 percent for Plan B Revised.

During a brief hearing, in which no one from the public expressed a preference for any plan, Miller said he had been thinking about a comment by council member Melody Dawson in a Sept. 20 session, challenging the council to do a “perfect” job in redistricting.

“I feel pretty confident there is a way of doing it perfectly,” Miller said, noting he had been in touch with the U. S. Department of Justice.

Miller said the complex process involved picking a “point of congruity” and a series of complex multiplications.

Pollan termed that process “more expensive.”

Council member Joyce Dalley made a motion to accept Plan B. It died for lack of a second.

Council member Melody Dawson made a motion to accept Plan A. It also died for lack of a second.

“ We’ve got to decide this tonight,” Knauf said. “We need to get this to the Department of Justice.”

Polla n sa id if t he council couldn’t make a prompt decision, city elections might have to be delayed past next May. He noted the Justice Department needed at least 60 days to review the plan.

Miller made a motion to accept Plan B Revised, it was seconded by Dawson and passed unanirate mously.

TIE VOTE—Marilyn Cates, representing First Christian Church, asked that the church’s sewer bill be reduced.

The council split 3-3 on that request with Miller, Toby Johnson and Dalley voting in favor and Doug Calame, Dawson and Willie Phillips against.

The mayor usually breaks tie votes but Mayor Larry Jones was absent. Mayor Pro Tem Calame presided.

Under council rules, the matter may not be revisited for six months.

The council discussed revising the utility rate for churches but took no action.

In other business, the council:

• Heard Connie Roddy of Milam County Master Naturalists report the next countywide Naturefest, held in Cameron the past two years, will be held in Rockdale’s Fair Park on April 14, 2012.

• Nominated incumbents Joan Ratliff and Tim Arledge to the Milam County Appraisal District board of directors.

• Adopted eight new personnel provisions for city employees.

• Rejected bank depository bids from both local banks and called for a re-bid.

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