Commission asked to consider ATV ordinance

WELLSBURG -In recent years the Brooke County Commission has received various complaints about the riders of all-terrain vehicles, ranging from trespassing on and damaging private property, creating a disturbance at night and, most recently, failing to pay property tax for the vehicles.

The county’s planning commission has asked the Brooke County Commission to require that ATV owners register their vehicles through the county assessor’s office. It’s a move planning commission members say will help to identify ATV riders who break the law and ensure the county receives its fair share of tax revenue.

But not all of the county commissioners are convinced that’s the answer.

Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said he supports any measure that would promote ATV safety, noting a young man was killed while riding an ATV in St. Clairsville on Sunday. But he said he doesn’t feel the property tax on ATVs, though it’s already in place, is fair.

Andreozzi noted unlike automobiles, ATVs aren’t permitted on most roads.

“What’s next – riding lawn mowers, bicycles?” he said.

Ruby Greathouse, a member of the planning commission, said a registration sticker on ATVs could help identify a rider who has fallen unconscious from an accident as well as one who is breaking the law.

Greathouse said ATV riders have harassed users of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail, where ATVs are prohibited, and in recent years caused damage to the Brooke Hills Park golf course.

Ken Fletcher, a member of the Brooke Hills Park board, confirmed ATV riders caused about $30,000 in damage to one area of the course and lesser damage to another. He said no one saw the riders because it happened over night.

Greathouse noted several gravestones at Franklin Cemetery were found knocked over on the same night that someone observed ATV activity there.

Andreozzi replied, “I know what I’d like to do with people who ride ATVs in a cemetery, but I’m not sure (registration) stickers would help.”

He and others have noted it could be difficult to read registration stickers on ATVs traveling at a fast speed and into woods and over hills not accessible to police cruisers.

When a proposed ATV ordinance went before a different set of Brooke County commissioners in 2009, the commission heard from many residents who voiced complaints about ATV riders damaging private property, causing disturbances and driving recklessly.

But they also heard from many ATV riders who complained only law-abiding ATV riders would register their vehicles, not the lawbreakers the commission hoped to address.

Commission President Tim Ennis said the commissioners are “naive” if they think all ATV owners will register their vehicles.

While the county assessor’s office receives notice when a state title is issued for a vehicle purchased by a local resident, it’s not notified when an ATV is purchased.

“If there was an easy solution, the problem would have been solved a long time ago,” Ennis said.

He added the commission will consider the ordinance, which also would prohibit ATVs from being used on lined roads or county property except under specific conditions.

Ennis said he didn’t know when the commission may vote on it but said the planning commission is hoping it will address the ordinance before its next meeting on Oct. 22.

In related business, the commission approved the planning commission’s request for $4,400 to update the county’s comprehensive development plan. Adopted in 2008, the plan offers guidelines for commercial and residential development, citing areas near major highways and with public water and sewer systems available.

In other business:

Kevin Beynon, executive director of the Weirton Transit Authority, asked the commission to provide an additional $2,500 for the public transportation service. The commission has allocated $5,000 for it in recent years.

Beynon said the transit authority is anticipating an increase in fuel costs. He said the agency saved more than $10,000 on fuel last year through a federal grant but that grant isn’t available this year.

He presented data that showed 20,101 of the transit service’s 43,921 riders were picked up in Brooke County.

Beynon said the three stops where the transit service picked up the most passengers were Freedom Place Apartments, Wal-Mart and Weirton Medical Center, all in Brooke County.

The commissioners told Beynon they would consider the request as they attempted to adjust their own budget to reflect rising health coverage costs.

Reappointed Ruth Lewis to the Brooke County Library Board.

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