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MILLERSBURG -- A standing-room-only crowd with an overflow into the hallway of the council chambers showed up at village council June 26 to show support of Harold Mullet, a 90-year old veteran who wants to be allowed to drive his Kubota all-purpose vehicle into town to purchase his groceries and medicine.
There were more than 20 people in chambers and another dozen or so in the hallway, seeking clarification on the village's stance on the situation regarding Mullet and his vehicle. Mullet was ticketed last August for driving his ATV illegally in the village.
"My dad's the one with the ATV," said Tim Mullet. "This whole issue could've been settled way before it hit the news. You people on council all got copies of the letters he sent out. Everybody chose to ignore it.
"Now, according to (Police Chief Thomas) Vaughn, it's a safety issue," Mullet continued. "But when people are coming to town with wagons and lawn chairs on the back, isn't that a safety issue?"
"The Amish and wagons are a completely different issue," Mayor Jeff Huebner said, deferring to village solicitor Bob Hines to explain the difference.
"Let's assume there's a trailer being pulled by a tractor, and that trailer has passengers on it," Hines said. "If the tractor is going under 25 miles per hour, they're legal with passengers.
"I'm assuming the trailer has safety equipment, in other words it has tail lights, etc. That is a requirement," Hines continued. "They can argue it's farm machinery. The only provision in Ohio law is a child under 16 cannot be in the vehicle if it is going over 25."
Resident Thomas Hart said that tractors and ATVs are essentially the same thing. "They're using them as as ATVs. It's all overlapping," he said.
Huebner had to ask people to refrain from speaking out on several different occasions and once had to threaten removal from the premises if they continued to speak out.
"You're enforcing an ordinance in Millersburg that nobody else has," Mullet said.
Hines corrected him, pointing out that the law is "Ohio law made by the Ohio Legislature. This group has never made a law."
He cited the Ohio Revised Code, as of Jan. 1, 2017, that it is still illegal to run a utility vehicle in town. "Whether it's an ATV or a utility vehicle, you can't drive either one within the village," Hines said.
After several shouts of "you're wrong," and "that's not true," Hines said, "If you don't want to believe me, that's up to you."
He then read the law, that clearly states no utility vehicles are allowed on roads where the speed limit is over 35 mph.
"The issue was he wasn't hurting anybody. He wasn't disrupting any traffic. He just came to town to get his groceries," Mullet said. "This town discriminates against him by making an ordinance."
Huebner pointed out that the village has never made an ordinance, but the state law gives entities the option to adopt an ordinance to allow them. "This is the state law that prohibits them," the mayor said.
Hines noted the village may authorize the operation of utility vehicles under its jurisdiction, and if it does, they have to limit operations to streets or highways, and the vehicle must be inspected by local law enforcement. Local authorities may establish additional requirements.
"Council may authorize them, but otherwise, they are prohibited by Ohio law," he said.
"This is just like there is a law that you'e not allowed to put stuff on sidewalks," Mullet said. "Did anybody get tickets over that? No. Mr. Vaughn decides to push the issue with the utility vehicle. You pick and choose what you want."
Christine Kauffman asked why council doesn't approve them.
Andrea Kellogg asked if there wasn't a way that the village could approve a special registration tag for yearly use. There could be restrictive use and generate money for the village.
Ryan Hershberger, a Millersburg resident, said it is already hard enough to drive through town without having to deal with utility vehicles. "You are opening a can of worms by letting this type of vehicle on the roads as well. I'm a village resident, and I don't want this type of vehicle on the streets."
"All I want is to drive my Kubota into Millersburg, where I've lived all my life, to get a haircut, to go to Rodhe's or Walmart," Harold Mullet said. "All I want is to go into town once or twice a week. I went to two wars for that right. All I'm saying is, please don't take my rights away from me. It's my freedom and independence for the rest of my life, what little time I've got left."
Another resident said he has no problem with Mullet driving into town. He pointed out you can't drive through town fast anyhow because of all the traffic.
"I'm more concerned with people blowing that red light at this intersection here every day of the week than I am worried about this man's ATV," he said.
Council Member Brent Hoffstetter asked Vaughn if he knew of any other municipalities that allow ATVs, and Vaughn said he is not aware of any.
Shreve, Killbuck and Berlin were names yelled out by the crowd as villages where ATVs are allowed.
Huebner asked council if they would allow ATVs on the streets of Millersburg.
Council Member Devone Polen asked what other restrictions there would be.
Hines pointed out the issue would not be settled at this meeting and asked if the council would form a committee or do a work session to address this issue to allow the ATVs on Millersburg streets.
"It sounds as though they are going to consider it and come back another day with a proposed ordinance," Hines said.
A vote of three for allowing ATVs, two against and one who wants more information left council at a standstill. Huebner said what he's hearing is the need for a work session to go over this issue and hammer something out. A public meeting will be announced and hopefully the issue can be resolved.
"I just hope nobody on council gets old and can't drive anymore," Tim Mullet said. "It's going to be a sorry time if you're not allowed to and be stuck at home or in a nursing home. Just think that over."