Approximately 50 Henry County residents made an appearance at a public hearing during a Board of Supervisors meeting for the consideration of an ATV/UTV ordinance that would allow use on Henry County roads on Thursday, April 18, at 10:30 a.m.
Out of approximately 50 people present at the public hearing, only three raised their hands to say they are against the ordinance.
Henry County is one of the only counties in southeast Iowa that does not have an ATV/UTV ordinance.
Fred Strothman, of New London, said he is grateful that supervisors are considering the ordinance but thinks there are some issues that the ordinance needs to address like the speed limit of ATVs and UTVs and if a county permit purchased in Henry County would be permitted in another county.
Strothman also voiced concern that ATV and UTV use would damage both gravel and hard-surfaced roads.
“I think the less layers of bureaucracy, the easier it is going to be to maintain,” Strothman said. “I have an ATV. It works (well) to get out in the fields. We use them for pleasure, we use them for work. They’re just a means to get around.”
Tony Brown, a resident of Henry County, was also in favor of the ordinance, and said he thinks that operators should be licensed in accordance with the Iowa DOT and insured like any other driver. He would also like to see a time limit for ATV and UTV use from sunup to sundown.
Brown, who is president of the Henry County Conservation Board, said that if the ordinance is approved, the Conservation Board would like to restrict how ATVs and UTVs can come into the Oakland Mills Park.
While ATV and UTV use is illegal in any county parks, Brown said there is a road that runs through the park that is maintained through the county, and he would like to see that ATV and UTV drivers are not allowed to drive through it.
Bob Swindell was not in favor of allowing the recreational use of ATVs on county roads. Swindell, who lives on 256th Street, south of Mt. Pleasant, said there is an average of 180 vehicles that pass his house each day. He does not want additional traffic.
“Where I’m situated, it would be a prime spot for ATV operators,” Swindell said. “If you’re going to pass an ordinance, I would ask that the fines for operating these vehicles be set high enough to prevent people from operating them without a license.”
Swindell also voiced concern that passing the ordinance would increase trespassing on his property.
“My concern is people won’t limit their use to county roads, and unless you have your property fenced and gated, they’re going to be out driving in your field,” Swindell said.
Swindell said if the county does pass the ordinance, he agrees that the use of ATVs and UTVs should be from dawn to dark, and they should not be allowed to drive in rights of way.
Tim Battey, a Henry County resident, said he already has a lot of trouble with ATV and UTV operators driving past his property, and he doesn’t see how an ordinance is something the Sheriff’s Office could enforce.
“They’re off-road vehicles and we want to put them on the road,” Battey said. “State law says it’s not allowed, but they have a provision that allows counties to do this ... I talked to almost every county around here that has these ordinances. Some love them, some hate them.”
Kenney Meyer, a Henry County resident, said he sees ATVs and UTVs used in Arizona during the months he lives there and is in favor of the ordinance in Henry County.
“One thing I’m realizing is how much money it would be for the county,” Meyer said. “If the county is looking financially, I think it would be quite the financial rise. We’re selling tires, insurance, ATVs.”
Casey Miller, who lives south of New London, said he travels to Wisconsin a few times a year to drive his ATV recreationally.
“(Wisconsin) brings in money by letting people travel on county roads,” Miller said. “(People) are assuming people will be trespassing. We have laws in place, and I think for the most part we’re here to follow the laws.”
Sheriff Rich McNamee suggested that the ordinance could require a DNR and county sticker on ATVs and UTVs as proof that they are permitted. McNamee said that an ordinance will not change the Iowa Code.
“If you’re driving too fast, driving cookies, running stop signs, that still violates the law,” McNamee said. “If we see a 10-year-old on an ATV, we’re going to stop them because they’re 10 and they’re not allowed to drive.”
Mindy Fitzgibbon, county recorder, said a permit through the county Recorder’s Office could restrict some people who might be driving recklessly and tearing up property.
“If they don’t have that permit through the county, but it’s registered through the DNR, they’re going to get a ticket,” Fitzgibbon said.
If supervisors do decide to move forward with an ATV/UTV Ordinance, there will be three readings before it is passed. There is no meeting scheduled to further discuss the ordinance.