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Floyd County board OKs first reading of ATV road access ordinance

By Bob Steenson,

The ability to legally drive ATVs on Floyd County roads moved a step closer Tuesday to what looks like its inevitable passage.

The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance regarding ATV and UTV use in the county at the board’s regular meeting. There were no comments presented for or against the proposal at the meeting, and the board passed it on its first reading.

The potential ordinance has been discussed for more than a year, and the board heard from many people early on, most in favor of allowing the recreational vehicles on county gravel and hard-surface roads.

Floyd County board OKs first reading of ATV road access ordinance
All-terrain vehicle — an ATV. Metro Image Library

Both Supervisors Linda Tjaden and Doug Kamm said they hadn’t heard anything lately, “other than ‘do it!’” Kamm said.

Supervisor Roy Schwickerath said, “We talked to the county attorney, we talked to the sheriff, we’ve talked to Conservation, we’ve talked to Dusty,” referring to county engineer Dusten Rolando.

The second reading of the ordinance is set for Monday, June 1. It takes approval at three readings of an ordinance for it to become law, although supervisors can waive the second and/or third reading if they choose.

The ordinance would allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-transport vehicles (UTVs) on most hard-surfaced and gravel roads in the county, except they would not be allowed on state highways, minimum maintenance roads and roads that are in areas controlled by Floyd County Conservation.

There would be a 35 mph maximum speed limit, drivers would need at be at least age 16 and have a driver’s license, and they would need to carry proof of liability insurance or other financial responsibility.

Drivers under age 18 would need to have completed an ATV certification course and carry the certificate with them.

Violation of the ordinance would be a county infraction punishable by a civil penalty of up to $750 on the first conviction, and up to $1,000 on subsequent convictions.

Also at the meeting, the supervisors discussed what metrics they will use to reopen the courthouse to the public after having closed it because of COVID-19 concerns, and what changes might be part of that.

“We’re in a very fluid situation,” Schwickerath said, noting that the state judiciary announced this week that in-person court proceedings won’t resume until July 13 and jury trials won’t resume until Sept. 14.

County Auditor Gloria Carr said the board had initially discussed the threshold of having no new COVID-19 cases in the county for two weeks before reopening the courthouse, but said that after talking with county Public Health Administrator Gail Arjes, “that’s not really reasonable,” because many of the people with COVID-19 will have already recovered.

What’s more important is to look at current active cases and whether that is increasing or decreasing, Carr said.

Carr said she has been keeping a spreadsheet showing total cases, the number recovered and the number of active cases, and whether the active cases are increasing or decreasing. As of the end of last week the number of active cases was trending up.

Schwickerath proposed opening the courthouse once there is less than a 10% increase in active COVID-19 cases for two weeks, with the possibility that the courthouse could be closed again if that spikes to more than a 50% increase.

“I’m trying to come up with some numbers that are reasonable,” he said.

Schwickerath said there is no urgency in reopening before it is safe to do so.

“The department heads are saying, ‘we’re functioning, we’re delivering services just the way we are today,’” he said.

Kamm said he has had questions concerning driver’s licenses and vehicle title transfers, especially learner’s permits for 14-year-olds and 16-year-olds who want to get their license.

County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus came down to the board meeting and said that people have options for those services.

New licenses, upgraded licenses through the state’s graduated license system and many other options are available on the Iowa DOT website, he said.

Under Gov. Kim Reynold’s emergency orders, driver’s licenses that have expired since Jan. 16 are still valid for driving until June 25. Drivers may also request a six-month extension to provide more time to renew their licenses.

Rottinghaus said people who don’t have internet service can call his office and they will be mailed an extension form that they can mail back.

As far as title transfers, “They can call the office and they can give us the details about the transaction and we can tell them how much it’s going to cost and we can mail them or email them an application that’s already filled out and they send back the check or drop it in the dropbox,” he said. “We’re doing more than several of those transactions every day.”

Really, though, he said, transferring the title isn’t needed right now. Under the governor’s orders people can drive a vehicle without plates if they have the bill of sale with them.

Also at the meeting Tuesday morning, the board approved the first reading of a lengthy amendment to the county zoning ordinance regarding flood plains.

Among the changes, no structure can be built lower than one foot above the 500-year flood plain. Previously that provision applied only to “critical infrastructure.”