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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board’s public safety committee has recommended that the village board approve allowing ATVs/UTVs to operate on village streets and state Highway 40 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round.
State law authorizes the village to allow all-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles to operate on village streets and state highways within the village, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, at a meeting of the public safety committee June 30.
Village Trustee Mark Halpin is chair of the public safety committee, and Village Trustees Logan Michels and Carey Davis also serve on the committee.
The public safety committee met in person at the village hall, along with Colfax residents Kyle Kressin and Dave Hovre, who are working to form an ATV/UTV club.
While the village can authorize ATVs/UTVs to operate on Highway 40, state Highway 170 is a problem because of the speed limit and the bridge, Niggemann said.
ATVs/UTVs can cross bridges, but the route must be one way, without them turning around and coming back over the bridge, she said.
Highway 170 is a problem because the speed limit is 40 miles per hour, and the village can only regulate ATVs/UTVs on roadways with speed limits of 35 mph or less, said Colfax Police Chief William Anderson.
There is a process that can be used to petition the state to change the speed limit on Highway 170, but that would take some time, Niggemann said.
Dunn County authorizes the operation of ATVs/UTVs on county highways.
Hovre wondered if the village could change the speed limit on county highways that run through the village, such as county Highways M and BB.
“I don’t think so,” Niggemann replied.
Enough people in Colfax already operate ATVs/UTVs, and there is no route now, Halpin commented.
Several years ago, representatives for the Dunn County ATV/UTV Association approached the village board about either a route through Colfax or making all of the village streets open to ATVs/UTVs.
The association also planned to approach the Town of Colfax about routes as part of an effort to connect routes throughout the county.
The village board subsequently approved an ATV/UTV route coming into the village on county Highway M to Railroad Avenue and west on Railroad to state Highway 40 with the return route east on Railroad Avenue back to Highway M.
Neither the village nor the Town of Colfax ended up actually establishing ATV/UTV routes. The Town of Colfax was reportedly waiting for Dunn County to add Highway M to the list of county highways approved for ATV/UTV operation.
The village board would have had to approve an ordinance establishing the route, and the ordinance would have to be published in the village’s official newspaper, the Colfax Messenger, before the route was available for use.
The village board did not approve an ordinance establishing the ATV/UTV route.
Kressin said that he and others who are planning to form a club in the Colfax area intended to be at the Colfax Town Board’s July 8 meeting to talk about ATV/UTV routes.
Members of the public safety committee debated whether it would be better to set a timeframe for hours of operation or whether it would be better to allow operation of the ATVs/UTVs 24 hours per day.
Hovre said he talked to someone in Boyceville about Boyceville’s decision to allow the operation of ATVs/UTVs.
Boyceville allows the vehicles to operate from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said, noting that setting a start time of 8:30 a.m. would not allow someone to drive an ATV/UTV to work.
Davis said he did not believe many people in Colfax would use an ATV/UTV as transportation to work.
And there might be a problem with their insurance if they did, since ATVs/UTVs are insured as recreational vehicles and not as vehicles to transport people to their places of employment, Niggemann said.
The village has a noise ordinance from 7 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., Police Chief Anderson said, noting that snowmobiles are allowed to operate in the village at all hours of the day.
Davis said he was of the opinion the ATV/UTV ordinance should be coordinated to match the noise ordinance.
Committee members agreed, and they also agreed that operation of the ATVs/UTVs should be allowed all year long.
The Colfax Messenger reviewed the village’s ordinances, and found only one section, 11-2-7, which refers to noise: “Loud and Unnecessary Noise Prohibited: It shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud and unnecessary noise. It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or wantonly to use or operate, or to cause to be used or operated any mechanical device, machine, apparatus or instrument for intensification or amplification of the human voice or any sound or noise in any public or private place in such manner that the peace and good order of the neighborhood is disturbed or that persons owning, using or occupying property in the neighborhood are disturbed or annoyed.”
The ordinance goes on to list different kinds of noise, and under “radios, phonographs, similar devices” prohibits their use in a “loud and unnecessary manner” between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Construction or repair of buildings is limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The ordinance also requires anyone wanting to use loudspeakers or amplifiers to obtain a permit from the police chief.
As for other time limitations, the ordinance states, “The Chief of Police shall not grant a permit to use a loudspeaker or amplifying device before the hours of 9 a.m. or after 10 p.m. No permit shall be granted to anyone who, in the opinion of the Chief of Police, uses said loudspeaker or amplifying device in such a manner or for such a purpose as to constitute a nuisance.”
Committee members also discussed whether ATVs/UTVs should be allowed on all streets or restricted to only certain streets.
If the ATVs/UTVs are restricted to certain streets, operators can be allowed to take the most direct way to reach the ATV/UTV route, Niggemann said.
Committee members agreed all village streets should be an ATV/UTV route unless otherwise marked.
After a brief discussion, committee members also agreed the speed limit for an ATV/UTV should be 15 mph in the village.
Boyceville set the speed limit at 10 mph but have since concluded that 10 mph might be too slow, Hovre said.
And what about regulating the age of the operators? Hovre wondered.
Under state law, children can drive an ATV/UTV at the age of 12 if they have a safety certificate and if they are accompanied by an adult and can operate at 16 with only a safety certificate. Elk Mound only allows a 16-year-old with a safety certificate to operate an ATV/UTV in the village, he said.
Police Chief Anderson said he would recommend Colfax stick with the state statutes because it would be “easier and simpler.”
The village also would need a permit from the state for ATV/UTV signs on a state highway, Niggemann said.
Committee members wondered who would pay for the signs — the village or the ATV/UTV club?
Someone in the village will complain if the village pays for the signs, Davis said.
Kressin and Hovre said the club would be able to do some fund raising to pay for the signs and noted the total cost would not be more than a couple of hundred dollars for signs.
The Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a motion to recommend to the village board that ATVs/UTVs be allowed to operate on all village streets, with a speed limit of 15 mph, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 365 days a year, and that the village board should adopt the state statutes regarding ATV/UTV operation.
A further review of the village ordinances by the Colfax Messenger revealed that the village has already adopted the state statutes for ATVs/UTVs.
According to the ordinances, Section 10.4.1, All-Terrain Vehicle Laws Adopted: “The provisions describing and defining regulations with respect to all-terrain vehicles in the following-enumerated Subsections of Sec. 23.33, Wis. Stats., and any future amendments or revisions, are hereby adopted by reference and made part of this Section as if fully set forth herein.”
Dunn County is considering a county-wide ordinance for ATVs/UTVs.
Town boards in Dunn County have been asked for their preferences on whether ATVs/UTVs should be allowed to operate on roads April 1 through December 1 of each year or for 365 days per year.
Town boards also have been asked for their preferences on whether the speed limit for ATVs/UTVs on roads should be 35 mph or the posted speed limit.
In addition, the town boards have been asked if ATVs/UTVs should be allowed to operate one hour before dawn to one hour after dusk or 24 hours per day.
Dunn County is considering an ATV/UTV ordinance because if each municipality has its own set of rules for operation, each ATV/UTV operator would have to carry a book of ordinances and a map to confirm the municipality in which they are operating.
There are 22 townships in Dunn County and seven villages.
A county ordinance also would make enforcement easier for the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department rather than all of the municipalities having their own regulations.