The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 17, 2013

Motorized wheelchairs on streets draw council’s eye

Staff Writer

ASHTABULA — City officials discussed a variety of issues relating to public safety Monday evening during a city council meeting.

Ashtabula City Council President J.P. Ducro brought up the issue of people driving motorized wheelchairs on city streets.                                                

“I’m concerned. I’m getting citizens sharing complaints on a regular basis,” Ducro said.

“Motorized wheelchairs are treated exactly the same as pedestrians under Ohio law,” said Ashtabula City Solicitor Mike Franklin. He said that means motorized wheelchairs, and pedestrians, should be on the sidewalk if one exists.

Franklin said the condition of the sidewalk or inconvenience can be taken into consideration, but motorized wheelchairs should be operated on sidewalks in most cases.

The improvement of city sidewalks, with the help of more than $100,000 from the city, should provide the opportunity for the motorized wheelchairs.

“They are very much endangering themselves and others,” Franklin said of those operating on public roadways.

“I’m not looking to give people in motorized wheelchairs a $100 ticket,” Ducro said, but asked that police warn people to stay on sidewalks.

Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said police officers have not given tickets to those illegally operating motorized wheelchairs on city streets but have ticketed pedestrians walking in the street.

Ducro said there have been reports of people walking in the middle of the street and not moving for vehicles.

Another safety issue concerning city leaders is the state of the former salvage yard located on West Avenue.

The business is presently in the process of being liquidated and the city has limited ability to control the site, according to city leaders.

City leaders said fire officials are working to keep the site secure but people have been helping themselves to items through holes in the fence.

Ashtabula City Manager James Timonere said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have been unable to find anyone responsible with the money to clean up the site.

“The first line of defense is what we are doing to make sure it is safe and secure,” said Chris McClure, vice-president of council.

In other business city council approved an ordinance making Ashtabula City Auditor Dana Pickert, acting treasurer for the remainder of the year.

Pickert will automatically take over those duties in January due to a change in the structure of the finance department, but the recent retirement of treasurer Lori Mackey led to the need for the ordinance, city officials said.

City Council also approved a contract with Conneaut Telephone Company for on-site technical services for two years starting this month.

An ordinance approving the city manager to enter into a financial assistance agreement so the Ohio Public works Commission can pay the $247,850 needed for the first stage of the West Harbor sewer improvements.

Pickert also announced that the city is over 50 percent in revenues and under 50 percent in expenditures but city officials are keeping a close eye on the budget because of a small carryover planned for 2014.

 She said they will monitor revenues and expenditures into September before recommending any further budget cuts.

A paving contract for Main Avenue from West 45th Street to West 48th Street was approved. McClure and Timonere both indicated the city is unable to pave any more roads this year but an aggressive plan for paving is in the works for 2014.