The Town of Oro Valley’s council meetings are back in full swing, following a two-month summer break, and it hasn’t taken long for some discord to surface between the council members.
On Wednesday night, two of the three regular agenda items saw a 4-3 vote, with the most discussed item relating to the implementation of a new ordinance that would allow Oro Valley police officers to issue double fines for moving violations within the Town’s reduced speed limit construction zones.
Though each of the council members supported an increased fine to protect workers, opinions varied on whether a double fine should be issued where construction workers were not present at the time of the violation.
Councilman Bill Garner asked for clarification on the topic, to which Paul Keesler, Director of Development and Infrastructure Services, responded.
“Our statute is to mirror the state statute, so there is discretion for it not to apply while workers are not present,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary Snider asked Chief of Police Daniel Sharp for his input.
Sharp said he “preferred consistency” with the speed limit, regardless of workers being present or not.
“We do see enough violations, and we had one worker hit on Magee Road, and we had one of our sergeants hit, and he broke his collarbone,” said Sharp. “There are going to be occasions where we want to be able to enforce (double fines).”
Garner was the first to take issue with a double fine with no workers present.
“I think there needs to be an expectation that when workers are there, this is for their safety, and that’s the whole reason we are penalizing the driver for driving over that speed limit, because we are trying to protect the workers that are there,” he said.
Mayor Satish Hiremath rebutted Garner’s claim, pointing out that road conditions in construction zones are often enough to warrant a reduced speed limit, regardless of the presence of workers.
“While I understand it’s for worker safety, its not 100 percent for worker safety,” he said. “It’s also vehicular safety and driver safety and passenger safety.”
Hiremath also recognized the importance of officer discretion in the ordinance, which gives the officer the flexibility to determine whether a particular offense in a construction zone merited a double fine.
Councilman Brendan Burns disagreed with imposing a double fine without workers present because it veered from state statute, which only imposes double fines when workers are present.
“When I get my driver’s license, it’s a state of Arizona driver’s license,” he said. “I’m hesitant to make different jurisdictions have driver codes different because then you are subject to going from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with different traffic laws.”
Prior to taking a vote, Hiremath reemphasized that workers are not the only ones protected by the ordinance.
“We’re way in the weeds on a very simple issue, and I don’t think it’s just the workers we have to be concerned about,” he said. “We have to create some type of a deterrent. There’s driver safety, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety, golf cart safety, and that’s what the issue is for me, so when I take the vote, I am going to oppose this, because I think we are cherry picking what we need to do. It’s not just the safety of our workers we need to be concerned about, but also the safety of our residents.”
The ordinance passed 4-3, with Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters, and Snider voting for double fines regardless of the presence of workers. Garner and Burns, along with council members Joe Hornat and Mike Zinkin, voted in favor of double fines only when workers are present.
In other business, the council recognized the soft opening of the Aquatics Center. Swimmers from Pusch Ridge, Canyon Del Oro, and Ironwood Ridge have already begun using the facility. The schools were previously using the facilities of Amphitheater and Flowing Wells as they awaited the completion of Phase I renovations.
The 50-meter pool is now set for use. Phase II of the construction, which will include completion of a 25-meter pool, water slide, and splash pad, is scheduled for completion in March.
The official opening will take place on Oct. 5, and council members, as well as Town staff are scheduled to be present.
The council also recognized the members of the Oro Valley Police Explorer program, which gives young volunteers an opportunity to gain experience in police work and public safety.
The Oro Valley Explorer squad, consisting of 35-40 Explorers put in 2,100 hours of volunteer work, and finished first place in a nationwide competition.
Members of the Oro Valley Police Department were in attendance to congratulate the youth volunteers.