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Electric cars legal, but limited

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Electric cars legal, but limited
By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

After several weeks of negotiation and research, the Lockhart City Council decided on Tuesday to allow electric cars on the streets in Lockhart.

The idea to introduce neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) was introduced in June as councilmembers tried to determine ways to help citi

zens save money on gas. Councilmember Lew White suggested an ordinance allowing Lockhart residents to drive “golf carts” around town on errands.

The legality of the proposal fell under fire as city attorney Peter Gruning discovered strong State statutes limiting the use of the vehicles.

“In September, the State will stop issuing licenses for golf carts,” Gruning told the council Tuesday evening. “Their decision is based on a situation where a golf cart was driving on a highway where the speed limit was 70 mph.”

Lockhart’s new ordinance will limit use of NEVs only to those streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less, and will hold the vehicles to the same standards as state requirements.

While White and District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks were both fiercely supportive of the ordinance, Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram and At Large Councilmember Paul Gomez pledged to withhold their support unless the measure included requirements that NEVs carry insurance, the same as a regular street-legal vehicle.

Gruning was quick to point out State statutes that require vehicles to be licensed and registered with the State, as well as insured. Though there are exceptions to the laws requiring financial responsibility, he said, those exceptions in no way apply to NEVs.

“They are motorized vehicles,” he said. “And as such, they are required under state law to have insurance and be registered.”

Insuring the vehicles could be tricky, he said, as some major insurance carriers will not offer coverage for NEVs at this time.

“So if they can’t be insured, they can’t be used, and this is all meaningless?” Gomez asked. Essentially, his assessment is true.

Without insurance, the vehicles cannot be registered with the State, and without registration, they cannot be driven on Lockhart streets.

Chief of Police Mike Lummus reported there have been some incidences of Lockhart residents illegally driving golf carts on the streets, but said those situations rose not out of malice or intention, but of a lack of education in the populace.

“We want to make it very clear that ‘golf carts’ are not legal on any city street in Lockhart,” Bertram said. “These NEVs are different, and they are the only things addressed in this ordinance. We want to make sure the citizens and the police department understand that if someone is driving a golf cart on a city street or sidewalk, they will be stopped and talked to.”

The differences between NEVs and standard golf carts, while appearing slight are actually significant.
NEVs must have headlamps and tail lamps, two mirrors, seat belts, windshields, parking brakes, vehicle identification numbers and turn signals. In addition, they must have attached the red, triangular sign denoting a “slow moving vehicle.” Standard golf carts may be retrofit to meet these requirements, but cannot be driven on the streets without the proper modifications.

In addition, the NEVs are specifically prohibited from being driven on several streets, including: Highway 183 in its entirety; West San Antonio Street from the city limits to Main Street; State Park Road (FM 20 W); Blackjack Street (FM 20 E); Silent Valley Road (FM 2001): Flores Street (FM 672); South Commerce Street (FM 1322); and FM 2720. While NEVs can cross these streets if necessary, it is recommended – though not required – that those crossings take place only at stop lights, as NEVs have a low rate of acceleration.

The ordinance will officially go into effect on Aug. 15.

In other business, as they prepare for next year’s budget, the council was asked to consider several capital improvement projects that may be presented to the voters as bond projects in November.

In a list presented by City Manager Vance Rodgers and Finance Director Jeff Hinson, the council will be asked to address upwards of $11M in bond projects, which include an additional fire station, a new fire truck, street reconstruction and street construction equipment, drainage, a new animal shelter, additions to City Hall, remodeling the second and third floors of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library’s Masonic Building addition, sidewalk construction and the construction of a civic center.

Rodgers and Hinson were quick to point out that not all of the projects could be addressed. They suggested the council review and prioritize the projects to determine which, if any, should be presented in November.

The council will revisit the possible bond projects during their Aug. 19 regular meeting.

In brief news:
In an effort to streamline processes at the Lockhart Municipal Court, the council agreed to appoint Court Administrator and Manager Bonnie Townsend as an Associate Judge. The move will allow a judge to be on hand and available during all the Court’s business hours, and empower Townsend to enter payment agreements with defendants. The change will go into effect in October.

They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lockhart Independent School District that will allow for the placement of a School Resource Officer at the Lockhart High School. Lummus said one of his officers, Phillip Smith, had requested the special-duty position.

There was brief discussion of the city’s budget, including talk about the certified appraisal roll that was delivered by the Caldwell County Appraisal District in July. Because of increases in the appraisal roll, Hinson suggested the council may need a two-cent tax increase to meet last year’s generated revenue. However, the council did not discuss setting a tax rate. Budget hearings have been proposed to be held in September.

The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.

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