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Berne’s back to golf carts

March 3, 2011

    Despite one of the harshest winters in recent memory, spring nonetheless is in the air.
    That means that golf carts are coming out of winter storage. And accordingly, complaints about restrictions on the operation of those vehicles are beginning to find their way to public officials.
    Such is the case in Berne, where Mayor John Minch on Monday evening updated the city council on a "golf cart situation" which has resurfaced there.
    Golf carts and their legal use were a major topic of discussion for virtually every municipality in Adams County over the past couple of years as communities scrambled to set out safety requirements and other restrictions on the four-wheeled vehicles. Berne was among the municipalities to adopt an ordinance governing the use of golf carts.
    Among the guidelines outlined in the Berne ordinance were a handful of safety provisions. The legislation requires carts to have factory seating for all occupants, a rearview mirror, headlights, tail lights, brake lights, front and back turn signals, and a slow-moving vehicle sign attached to the rear. The lights must be visible for at least 500 feet.
    Berne's law also states that no golf cart may be operated on a street until it is registered with the city. Registration fees were set at $25.
    According to Minch, the latest controversy surrounding golf carts comes from neighboring communities — most specifically Geneva — as cart operators in that southern town seek clarification on their right to operate a golf cart in Berne.
    Geneva's legislation requires fewer safety devices — mirrors and seat belts — than does Berne's. And while Berne charges $25 for registering golf carts, Geneva's ordinance sets a $7 fee, said Minch.
    So how should city officials deal with out-of-town golf carts?
    "After some consideration, it appears to me that if someone wants to drive from Geneva to Berne on a golf cart, that should be no problem," said Minch. "As long as (those golf carts) are inspected by our own police department" and meet the safety requirements spelled out in the Berne golf cart ordinance.
    Councilman Mark Wynn said he would agree with that assessment, "as long as residents of Berne are not going to Geneva to get their permit" and paying a reduced price to operate a golf cart. Wynn said he would consent to a reciprocal agreement with Berne's southern neighbor "as long as their driver's license says 'Geneva' on it."
    Minch said the matter "is only an issue with three or four people, but it's something I'd like to get cleared up."
    The mayor said only a half-dozen golf cart permits have been issued to Berne residents since the law was enacted.
    While taking no official action, council verbally authorized its attorney to incorporate the recommended changes into a revised ordinance and present it to council at a later date.

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