Fillmore County Deputy Jason Harmening attended last September 8 Harmony City Council meeting to ask council members to review the existing ordinance for use of side-by-sides, ATVs and golf carts within city limits.
Harmening explained that he’s been reviewing the ordinance with City Attorney Greg Schieber and they believe there is a need to make a stronger, more detailed ordinance with clearer language.
“The language is confusing and we want to clean it up,” Harmening said. “With recent happenings, we’ve been scrutinizing the ordinance a bit and the information conflicts with itself within the ordinance.”
The recreational vehicles are popular and there are benefits to having them, Harmening said.
The city has a permitting ordinance, requiring owners to obtain an operating permit if they want to drive them within city limits. However, Harmening said, there is also a separate ordinance prohibiting them in city limits.
He also pointed out that Harmony has a good ordinance regarding snowmobiles and he would like a similar ordinance developed for the side-by-sides and ATVs.
One the main concerns, of the deputy and the council members, had to do with youthful operation of the vehicles. The council seemed to believe the city had a provision regarding an age requirement for operations, but Harmening explained there is not one.
“If an operator is under 16, they have to remain lawful, and if they do not, the permit holder can have the permit revoked,” he said.
Scheiber noted that direction from The League of Minnesota Cities is that cities not set an age, but include language that requires all operators to have insurance.
“This will somewhat address the problem because a five-year-old isn’t going to be able to get insurance,” he added.
The council agreed to set up a committee to further review the ordinances related to recreational vehicles and to draft a proposed ordinance with the help of Schieber. The committee will include Councilman Steve Sagen and Mayor Steve Donney with Harmening serving in an advisory role.
City Administrator Devin Shwanberg told the council that there are 211 permits issued within the city for use of the recreational vehicles. That is over half of the 400 households within the city limits.
As the discussion came to a close, Shieber added, “On a larger scale, the city may want to undertake a more comprehensive review of all the ordinances.” He explained that The League of Minnesota Cities updates their model ordinances periodically and the city has not done a comparison with that model for several years.
In other business, the council approved the preliminary tax levy with a 10.2% increase. Swanberg explained that the largest factor to the increase was this summer’s street and utility improvement project. The council will be reviewing the proposed budget and tax increase over the next few months before setting the final tax levy and budget in December.
The council approved use of city land for several upcoming Chamber of Commerce events. The parking lot, on Center Street West, was approved to be used for a pop-up market on Saturday, September 19, and Saturday, October 31. The use of the community center was also approved for a drive-through Customer Appreciation Night meal on Thursday, October 15.
The council approved the purchase of a rescue truck for the Harmony Fire Department at a maximum cost of $365,000. The department currently has a little over $200,000 in its capital outlay fund and has applied for a grant to help cover some of the costs for the truck. “We outgrew our ’96 quite a few years ago,” said Chief Rod Johnson. “We need something to support our equipment and our safety.”
The city council agreed to a recommendation from the Harmony EDA to utilize the Minnesota CARES money to purchase a portable sound system, upgrade the city’s SCADA system to allow city employees to get mobile alerts for city utility systems and purchasing personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies for city buildings and local businesses.
The council and city staff thanked the volunteers who helped erect the new playground equipment at the community center on Saturday, August 29. Another thank you was extended to Ryan Oian from Generation X who donated his time and equipment to level the area for the structure.