The Moab City Council heard a long report from Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge at their regular meeting on Nov. 12 at City Hall. Edge discussed training and staffing issues at the department, as well as two studies stemming from resident concerns.
Police invest in OHV study
OHVs—a term that includes ATVs and UTVs—continue to be a point of discussion in Moab.
Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge reported to the council that the department had spent time doing a small study of OHV drivers within the city limits, responding to requests for action by residents.
“There’s a perception in the public that OHVs are going around without proper equipment or registration,” Edge said. “We’re trying to determine what percentage is really driving around without registration.”
In Utah, OHVs must be licensed and registered as well as have safety features like turn signals and rearview mirrors in order to become “street-legal.” However, the 2008 law permitting these vehicles on public roads is controversial in its own right.
Edge reported that the department had conducted a survey of 166 OHVs, positioning officers to observe whether passing drivers were displaying proper registration. Edge reported that unregistered OHVs count for about 9% of passing off-road vehicles,”
“Something to note is that not every state issues license plates,” Edge said. “You might see an OHV going down the street without a plate, but it might have a street-legal sticker from the driver’s home state.”
“In addition to registration, they also need to meet equipment requirements. Is that being monitored as well?” Councilmember Kalen Jones asked.
Edge agreed but said that it was virtually impossible to determine if the equipment met standards without detaining drivers.
The 2008 bill allowing street-legal OHVs on public roads originated with rural lawmakers. At some point, the bill included an opt-out clause for communities in the state, according to then-Utah State Rep. Brad King at a Moab community meeting in 2015. King said that the clause “mysteriously” disappeared from the final version of the bill.
On Oct. 15, the Moab City Council joined with Grand County and Castle Valley to issue a joint statement opposing a National Park Service directive that would have allowed OHVs within NPS boundaries. The NPS directive was later reversed.
At the joint meeting, Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus had proposed discussing how the state law which allows some OHVs considered “street-legal” to be driven on public roads could be amended to address noise regulation or other nuisance issues.
At the council meeting on Nov. 12, Edge mentioned that when the street-legal OHV law was passed over ten years ago, the police encountered many more problems with non-compliant equipment and drivers than today.
“I feel like people know now that you cannot come to Moab expecting the wild west and drive whatever you want on our roads,” he said.
Edge also noted that the vehicles vary wildly in terms of noise.
“Some of them, you can hear coming three blocks away. Others, you can barely hear going by,” he said.
“Some are loud. The tires are loud, the mufflers are loud. There isn’t a whole lot we can do about that,” Edge said, “but from the perspective of operating legally, I think that most of them are.”
Edge noted that the department would be doing more OHV studies in the spring.
“Obviously on the OHV front, it leaves a lot to be done on the legislative end,” said City Manager Joel Linares.
Radar trailer appears around town
“We’ve also initiated a traffic-study program focused around neighborhood traffic issues,” reported Edge. The study applies to all traffic on neighborhood roads.
The police chief said that offers were responding to calls from residents reporting speeders near their homes by dropping off a radar trailer. The units are familiar to most drivers as trailers with electronic displays that show the speed of passing cars.
But, Edge said, that’s not all the machines do.
“It doesn’t just flash your speed, it gathers data from everyone who drives by. A tremendous amount of data,” Edge said. The units collect data on the number and speed of cars passing in both directions at all times of the day.
“It allows us to determine if there is a real issue and, if there is, to figure out the best times to assign an officer to the area,” he said.
Several areas were selected to be monitored, with several showing speeding issues on the roads.
“300 south has a substantial issue,” Edge said, indicating that many cars are driving over the speed limit on that stretch of road.
“The speed limit there used to be 25 miles per hour,” Edge said, “it’s now 20 miles per hour.”
“85% of the vehicles driving on 300 South are doing 24 miles per hour or less,” the chief said, “it gives you real cause to stop and consider that maybe the speed limit should be 25.”
“This is the first time the department has dedicated time and effort to doing something like this, but when citizens call me with a complaint we want to address it,” said Edge.
Edge indicated that currently the department was only using one trailer, but are seeking grant funding to purchase a second unit.
Meetings set to discuss budget, overnight accommodations
“We’re looking at adding some dates to complete our work for 2019,” said Mayor Niehaus. The group scheduled meetings to discuss new overnight accommodations guidance and to go over budget items with Moab City Finance Director Rachel Stenta. Stenta was also confirmed as the new Moab City treasurer at the meeting.
“It’ll give us an opportunity to talk in light of the county being in their budget process right now. We can then respond to some of the items they’re discussing,” she said. The budget meeting was tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6.
“If we don’t have overnight accommodations decided on and in place by Dec. 10, we will have to have a special meeting that week,” said Niehaus. Councilmember Jones urged for overnight accommodations to be discussed earlier in order to meet deadlines with enough time for substantive discussion. Holidays, however, made the meetings difficult to schedule.
A mid-day Nov. 22 meeting was scheduled to discuss overnight accommodations.
The Nov. 12 meeting also had an extended discussion of the Moab City Sustainability Plan and the city-driven Walnut Lane project to create affordable housing.
Moab City Council meeting postings and agendas are available online at www.utah.gov/pmn