After months of wrangling back and forth the City Council on Monday adopted an ordinance allowing golf carts virtually free rein across the city.
It was the changed vote of Alderman Ken Saunders that swung the tide to pass the legislation by the narrowest of margins with five for and three against it.
Saunders said he had opposed the ordinance until recently when he had a change of heart and decided to get behind the proposed ordinance.
Voting for the ordinance in addition to Saunders were Steven Mosley, Rick Anderson, Burch Johnson and Jan Hogue.
Aldermen Marc Kelley, Preston Lewis and Caleb Norris all voted against the ordinance.
Mayor Mike Watson stated that both he and Maumelle police chief Sam Williams opposed the measure concerned about the safety issue.
"Not a good idea, the Chief said twice not to pass," Watson said.
Just last week while sitting at Starbucks, several Maumelle residents watched in amazement as two teen-aged boys dashed across Maumelle Boulevard from the Country Club of Arkansas in a golf cart headed toward Kroger. Although such a drive is illegal now and will continue to be illegal with the passage of this ordinance, several aldermen expressed concern for those who would be legally driving on Odom Boulevard, a street they said where speeds often match those on Maumelle Boulevard.
Once again, as in previous meetings the council got sidetracked with other proposed amendments to the law.
One would have made the law apply only to electric or solar powered vehicles. Original sponsor Johnson said he had a gasoline powered golf cart and he estimated that there were no more than ten gas powered golf carts in the city.
Another idea was to make its implementation effective at a specific date.
City Attorney JaNan Davis said without an emergency clause the law would be effective on April 7.
Longtime former alderman Doug Ladner spoke against the proposed ordinance saying currently Maumelle police use discretion enforcing the current statutes regarding golf carts.
"If this passes that leeway needs to be taken away. What’s wrong with current law?"
Kelley expressed concern over "souped up" golf carts that might exceed 20 mph.
The new law allows the use of golf carts on any city street except state highways like Maumelle Boulevard.
Crossing across Maumelle Boulevard is also prohibited.
Operators of those golf carts will be required to provide proof of insurance if asked by authorities.
The old law only allowed carts to be used to and from a home to a nearby golf course in daylight.
Gib Carpenter acknowledged that many Maumelle Country Club members currently violate the old law.
Mosley said he didn’t see any change in the new law and the way the current one is enforced.
It was that enforcement of the current law that Saunders said changed his vote after a discussion with Carpenter.
"It bothers me that we’re ignoring the current ordinance. That shows contempt for the ordinance," he said.
In other business the council unanimously approved new zoning ordinances to allow nursing homes and health education facilities in Maumelle.
Action on a proposed new fence ordinance was deferred until the Tuesday, Jan. 21 next council meeting with Watson saying the city wanted to do a little more work on the ordinance to clarify a six-foot fence is the maximum height, not the required height. He said a four-foot fence is OK.
Alderwoman Jan Hogue who proposed the delay said she’d like to see the city require flat-board fences.
Watson noted the city would be happy with an iron or brick fence and that the homeowner would have an option whether to even put up a fence or not.
Two budget resolutions passed without much discussion one approving the city applying for grant reimbursement for work already done and the other to approve more overtime pay to offset money spent last month on the Dec. 6 snow and ice storm.
Watson reminded aldermen that their annual statement of financial interest is due by Jan. 31.
He also noted Metroplan is in the early stages of a study into the Maumelle Boulevard stop light synchronization that when complete could positively impact traffic on the Boulevard.
"It will help," he said.