Wednesday, July 29, 2009

John Matuszak: Bexley seeks to nix texting and driving.

Exit the Information Superhighway before traveling our roadways.

That's the message Bexley City Councilman Jed Morison wants to send as he introduced an ordinance banning texting while driving in the suburb.

"It's a tool to say 'it's against the law to text and drive'" in Bexley, Morison explained at the July 28 council meeting. "If your hands are off the wheel and your eyes are off the road, it's a disaster waiting to happen."

A recent study published in the New York Times stated that drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to have an accident - a greater risk that drinking and driving.

Morison wants the ordinance to be more educational than punitive, and he isn't looking to create a greater burden for police.

"My hope is that parents and family members and friends will be the chief educators and enforcers" of the ordinance, he said.

Some 14 states and several Ohio cities have entacted similar prohibitions, but Bexley is among the first central Ohio communities to take on the issue. Around 100,000 vehicles pass through Bexley every day.

City Attorney Lou Chodosh pointed out that Bexley already has a law against "driving while distracted," but that the texting ban would be more specific.

While some residents are questioning whether council should spend time on the ordinance, others are supportive, and the effort is drawing attention from outside the city.

Gahanna resident Sharon Montgomery spoke in favor of the move. Nine years ago her husband was killed and she was seriously injured in an accident involving a driver using a cell phone.

For 12 years, the state legislature has been trying to pass a bill banning cell phone use while driiving, without success, Montgomery said.

"So, if you want people to be safe in Bexley, you're going to have to take matters into your own hands," she said.

Morison acknowledged that this legislation could lead to a discussion of banning cell phone use while driving, but he wanted to get the texting law passed before getting hung up on that issue.

While teens do the majority of texting, Morison noted that the ordinance is not directed solely at them. In fact, since adults are less proficient at sending text messages, it's probably more dangerous when they text and drive, he added.

The ordinance will have additional readings when council returns from its summer recess in September, and the city is looking for public input on the issue before it votes, Morison said.

In other business, at council's service committee meeting, Councilman Rick Weber reported that residents could see an increase in their trash bills under a new contract with Rumpke Waste Haulers.

Bexley has been negotiating with the hauler it has used for seven years, along with a consortium of communities including Reynoldsburg, Gahanna and New Albany. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio has also been part of the talks.

Under the proposed contract, the cost for most residents would increase from $60 to $72 per quarter for 2010, Service Director Bill Harvey said. Costs for senior citizens would jump from $40 to $66 per quarter.

Harvey wants to revisit how the city extends the senior citizen discount.

Weber said that these costs would be fixed for the length of the five-year contract, but that Rumpke could increase charges to the city if fuel costs or recycling fees go up.

The trash contract has to be approved by Oct. 1. A service committee meeting with a Rumpke representative will be scheduled in September.

In other news, council:

Approved an ordinance ending a moratorium on hiring union-represented employees without council's approval, as long as the salaries are in the current budget. Council retains the ability to approve hiring of non-union employees.

Introduced an ordinance to purchase property adjacent to the city's community garden near Sheridan Avenue for $22,000. The purchase would provide easements to other city-owned lots and secure land for future development, Mayor John Brennan explained.

Introduced a resolution allowing the mayor to accept a $475,000 state grant for interior renovations at Jeffrey Mansion. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Price said the work would cover heating and cooling systems, floors and other repairs, and not expansion of mansion facilities.

Scheduled a meeting of the Land Use Master Plan Committee for Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Torah Ehmet synagogue on Main Street. The plan covers future development in areas including Livingston Avenue, Mayfield/Ferndale and North Cassady Avenue, according to Councilman Ben Kessler.

Announced that the Labor Day block party would be held at Jeffrey Park Sept. 6 from 3-6 p.m. with games and activities for kids, a yard sale, a Bexley Meadow Band concert and barbecue dinners for $5.


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Design is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. John Matuszak.

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