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Public rumbles as ATV ordinance looms
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“When you buy these machines, they’re not [originally] offensively loud,” Liberty Cycle’s Ken Jenkinson said.
The vehicles can be made loud intentionally, removing the muffler and installing high-performance exhaust pipes.
Standard ATVs generally can get up to 45 mph.
Public safety may have been on the minds of Liberty County commissioners as they gave a proposed four-wheeler ordinance a second read during their meeting yesterday.
But some residents think there’s more to be considered before an ordinance passes.
“I can’t believe this has gotten this far over just one person,” said Gary Sutton, who has four-wheelers, go-karts and golf carts riding up and down his neighborhood.
“I don’t see the reason for another law when we have laws on the book.”   
Commissioners started to consider an ordinance after hearing from resident Grant Montana in February.
And Montana may have had a point, according to Brandon Osborne.
“They are a little harder to see than a vehicle because they’re smaller,” Osborne said.
“If you can’t see something, you’re going to hit it.”
The Fort Stewart soldier grew up on a farm.
“So we used it for work and for play,” he said.
That’s what rural areas are for, according to Sutton.
“Living in a rural community, that’s why you live there and pay your taxes, to have some freedoms that are not in the incorporated areas,” Sutton said.
“We moved in these settings so we can enjoy these kinds of things.”
Jesup and Pembroke have the closest recreation parks to legally ride the estimated $4,000 to $15,000 vehicles.
Ken Jenkinson, owner of Liberty Cycle on Highway 84, briefs all his customers on age requirements and safety regulations before they buy.
Riders 16 and under are not allowed on certain ATVs and smaller ATVs have a 12-year-old age requirement.
“If you don’t hold a driver’s license, you don’t need to be on the road,” Osborne said.
The draft ordinance reviewed Tuesday evening would ban use on and 50 feet away from county roads, with a fine of up to $1,000.
“If this thing is going to go countywide, I think the citizens need to look at this and voice their opinion,” Sutton said.
Coming up with a hard, fast rule, without public knowledge, is not fair, agreed Commission Marion Stevens, who represents a lot of the county’s unincorporated areas.
“I believe in public input 100 percent,” Stevens said. “At least listen to the people, the people are the ones actually there.”
“I’m going to be for reading it again,” Stevens said Monday evening. “A public hearing should be held before it’s actually voted [on].”
“If we make it too strong, that’s going to put more work on law enforcement … then it’s going to put more work on the courts,” the commissioner said.
Sutton said ATVs aren’t dangerous “if they’re wearing the proper safety gear.”
“There’s danger in getting up out of bed in the morning,” he said, adding he never wants to see kids get hurt. “I believe everything’s OK.”
“The neighborhood sort of polices itself,” Sutton said. “Everybody’s known everyone for years.”
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