County discusses road safety, firearms ordinances

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Ordinances about roadway safety and firearms were discussed Monday morning at the Dubois County Commissioners meeting.

They looked at a proposed ordinance to keep yard waste, like grass clippings off roadways. They also reviewed the county’s ordinance regarding firearms in county buildings to make sure it follows state rules.

The ordinance about yard waste on county roads has been discussed since August, after motorcyclist and county resident Russell Friedman approached the commissioners about substantial amounts of clippings being left on county roads. Those clippings can cause motorcycles and bicycles to lose traction and slide off the road, he said.

The commissioners discussed on Monday a proposed ordinance that would make leaving yard waste and vegetation on the roads a violation. The first fine for such a violation would be $250, and the amount would increase with additional violations.

Commissioner Elmer Brames said he preferred to have a resolution instead of an ordinance to address this matter. He was concerned about the ramifications an ordinance would have on incidents that are inadvertent happenings or natural occurrences.

“I would prefer to address this issue in a resolution where we ask the public, encourage the public to not do this type of thing on our public roads,” he said, “rather than to take it to this level where we’re potentially citing people for a violation.”

Commissioner Nick Hostetter agreed with having a resolution, and said that the proposed ordinance was vague in some areas.

“There is a lot of gray area in here, as far as how many grass clippings on the road, things like that,” he said.

He was also concerned about the safety of the person doing the mowing, especially when the person would be responsible for immediately turning around to blow the yard waste back in the yard.

“We’ve got to balance the safety of the motorcycle rider with the safety of the guy mowing his yard,” Hostetter said. “I do my best to keep the grass out of the road, because I don’t want anybody to get hurt. But at the same time, I live on a road where vehicles are going 50, 60 miles per hour. And I don’t feel safe with my back to the traffic.”

Hostetter agreed that clippings on roadways are a hazard. “I don’t want people putting their clippings on the roads,” he said. “But I’m not certain if it should be an ordinance at this point. If it’s a public safety thing, it probably should come down from the state.”

Commissioner Chad Blessinger supported having the ordinance. “A resolution doesn’t have any teeth,” he said. “It just suggests that you don’t do it. An ordinance is an educational piece with some teeth to back it up.

“I think most of our community will do the right thing for the right reasons,” Blessinger added. “Other people will need some encouragement. And that $250 fine may be the appropriate encouragement.”

After a lengthy discussion, Blessinger motioned for the approval of the ordinance. No one seconded the motion, so the motion died. The commissioners then directed County Attorney Greg Schnarr to draft a resolution for the commissioners’ next meeting.

The county’s firearms law, in which firearms are not allowed in county buildings, may need to be changed to follow state statute, Blessinger told the commissioners. The law has been in effect since 2001.

The county determined in 2010 that county employees bringing firearms to work must keep them in their vehicle, locked in the glove compartment or trunk.

Under state law, people who can legally carry firearms can have them in buildings, though there are exceptions in the state law. The public cannot carry them in buildings that have courts. That would include the Dubois County Courthouse, which has circuit and superior courts, and the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, which has small claims courts. But they can’t be restricted at the other county buildings.

State law does allow the county to keep firearms out of public meetings, but the officials must state that in a county ordinance. The commissioners agreed to add that language to the county’s ordinance. Schnarr will draft the changes for the commissioners to consider at the next meeting.

The next meeting will be at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 7, on the second floor of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St., Jasper.




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