PAOLA — Wes Gerken has a new toy, and he’ll soon be able to use it on the streets of Paola.
Gerken, who recently purchased a Polaris 1000 Turbo four-seated utility vehicle, asked Paola city officials earlier this year if they would modify city regulations to allow work-site utility vehicles or UTVs to be driven in town.
Paola city leaders said they would consider the issue when it comes time to renew the city’s annual Standard Traffic Ordinance, and they did just that during the Paola City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10.
The ordinance defines a UTV as any vehicle designed for off-highway use which has: a width no less than 48 inches; an overall length, including the bumper, of not more than 135 inches; four or more wheels; low pressure tires; side-by-side seating; a steering wheel; non-straddle seating; manufacturer-provided foot controls for throttle and braking; occupant restraints and rollover protective measures.
Under the revised ordinance, which council members unanimously approved, UTVs will be allowed on city streets with posted speed limits less than 45 miles per hour. There are a number of conditions listed, including the fact that the UTV must be equipped with lights, turn signals and reflectors and be inspected each year.
Drivers must have a valid unrestricted license, and the UTVs must be registered with the Paola Police Department, which will give the owner a registration sticker to place on the vehicle. The sticker will be valid through Dec. 31 of the year that it is issued.
The initial registration fee is $150, with the annual license renewal fee being $25.
“We think those fees will cover our costs,” City Manager Jay Wieland said.
Gerken said he doesn’t have an issue with the fees or safety requirements, as they are all pretty standard. He will have to wait a bit longer though to take his UTV for a ride in town. The changes to the ordinance allowing for UTVs will not become effective until Jan. 1, 2020.
Gerken will need to continue to transport his UTV on a trailer to a place outside the city limits to ride it until then, but he said he’s ready for the new year to arrive.
“My wife wants to take it to the grocery store,” he said with a smile.
The revised ordinance also makes a small change to the section pertaining to golf carts, which the City Council voted to allow on city streets several years ago.
The ordinance previously listed an age requirement of 17 or older, but it has now been revised to match the UTV language and simply require a valid unrestricted driver’s license.