At Monday’s regular meeting the Belleville City Council approved two new ordinances
one to prohibit interference with city employees and the other to keep skateboards, roller skates and cycles from damaging the new streetscape and other things.
After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance amendment that provides for a misdemeanor citation for those found guilty of interfering with police, fire, public works and other employees.
City attorney John Day said the issue came up following an incident outside the fire station when a fire crew was backing the engine into the fire hall and a driver on Liberty Street blocked the way. That driver was prosecuted on something else, Day said.
He said on looking into it they found other employees were having problems.
Fire Fighter Nathan Loyer said the old law was antiquated and covered only the fire scene. He said the fire department is happy with the ordinance.
A misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of $500 and/or 90 days in jail.
“Be aware that while we appreciate this amendment, we don’t want to fine people,” Loyer said, adding Liberty Street is not the quiet side street it used to be.
He said he has talked to Police Chief Gene Taylor about a blinking traffic light that could be put in place to alert drivers to activity at the fire hall. He said he got an estimate of $35,000 for one of the options and Chief Taylor is looking into a grant.
“It’s just a matter of time until one of the fire fighters gets hit or a driver hits a fire truck,” Loyer said.
There are options of having a red light on a post at the side of the roadway, activated from the truck, or a light hanging above that can be seen from both directions.
Day said if a traffic control device is involved, the driver could be cited civilly and points could be assessed.
Councilman Brian Blackburn, who also serves as a fire fighter, said he has personally had said to him, “I don’t have to stop for you. You’re not a bleeping cop.”
“I agree,” said MJ Dawson. “I don’t think $500 is enough to pay. We have people out there risking their lives … fixing a water main … putting out a fire… If people are stupid enough .. they deserve at least a $500 fine.”
DPW Director Keith Bob said two weeks ago his crew was on High Street working on a water main and High was shut off with barrels. He said people were driving around the barrels, up on the sidewalk, and in people’s front yards at the church.
“It happens every time we fix a water line,” Boc said.
“It’s selfishness … People need to grow up,” Blackburn said.
Chief Taylor said it’s a civil infraction for a driver who ignores flashing red lights on a school bus, but only a misdemeanor for disobeying a crossing guard.
“If we’re looking at changing the ordinance … a person not protected by a vehicle … should have more of a punch to the penalty,” Chief Taylor said.
Atkins said at Music Lakeside in the summer, people drive around the barricades when High Street is closed.
“Our species are creatures of habit,” said Chief Taylor. “… they think if they see cars inside that barricade, it must be OK… There are laws on the books for barricades … but people ignore the barricades … with their cell phones, screaming kids and have-to-be-there-last-week issues …”
The other ordinance amendment adopted was to prohibit skateboards, roller skates, and cycles from being used in certain areas downtown. This was conceived in October when damage to the new streetscape first was noticed.
The ordinance says a person must yield right of way to pedestrians and stay off of benches, table, planters, hand railings, and other devices not intended for pedestrian or vehicle traffic. The devices also are prohibited from use in the Fourth Street Mall, Belleville District Library properties, or any other posted property.
Devices may be confiscated by the police and held as evidence for a prosecution of the civil infraction.
In other business, the council:
• Approved the mayor’s appointment of William Emerson to the Zoning Board of Appeals with a term to expire Dev. 31, 2012. Emerson is a former city councilman and will be retiring from the fire department in two weeks;
• Approved transfer of the liquor license at the Bayou Grill, 404 Main Street, from Yanni Christodolou to Brain Copsey. The request now goes to the Liquor Control Commission for a final determination;
• Approved the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 12 bottle drive at Victory Park to raise money for the annual BHS Senior Party;
• Set the annual citywide yard sale for Aug. 27 and 28. This is earlier than usual – before Labor Day — to respond to requests from college students who want to buy things for their dorm rooms at the sale;
• Directed attorney John Day to put together a Snow Emergency ordinance for the council’s consideration. For last week’s snow storm, a notice was put on the community events sign asking people not to park on the streets and Boc said that was the first time the streets were clear when the DPW plowed;
• Went into a brief closed session to discuss pending legal action;
• Approved accounts payable of $353,532.21, including the following departmental expenditures over $500: to Auto Value, $662.52 for snow plow parts; to BS&A, $685 for service/support building department; to Metro Environmental, $717.50 for root cutting and $1,406.25 for sewer cleaning; to Michigan DNRE, $2,000 for annual permit fees for discharge of storm water; to Oakland Co. Treasurer, $1,962.75 for CLEMIS; and to State of Michigan, $800 for MIOSHA fine;
• Heard Kollmeyer thank the Masonic Lodge for agreeing to help with distribution of free food to those in need by offering their lodge for sorting and distributing. She said they will pick it up, hopefully starting Tuesday, sort it and deliver it. Kollmeyer said she has a list of volunteers who can help the Masons;
• Heard all the council members welcome Mayor Pro Tem Rick Dawson back to the council table after being absent for cancer treatment;
• Heard Atkins suggest Boc be named ordinance officer along with his DPW job since he was doing that before, but then too much building was going on at the time. She said too many ordinances are being disobeyed because there is no ordinance officer; and
• Reminded everyone the next meeting will be on a Tuesday, Feb. 22, because of Presidents’ Day on Feb. 21.