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After much discussion, council sets annual registration fee for UTVs at $30

By James Grob, [email protected]

The Charles City Council unanimously approved the dollar amount of the fees for UTV registration at Wednesday’s meeting, but it didn’t happen without some lively discussion.

“What’s the purpose of the fee?” council member Keith Starr asked. “Why are we making people run through these hoops, instead of making this user-friendly?”

The council, which recently passed an ordinance allowing UTV use on city streets, set the registration price for the vehicles at $30 per year. Stickers will be issued to each UTV owner to place on the rear of the unit. Registration will be due annually and there will not be a requirement for upfront inspections of the unit. The Charles City Police Department will administer the registration.

Separate allowance is also allowed for UTV’s participating in a one-time sponsored event. These units will not be required to have a regular registration with the city but will pay a one-time event registration fee to the event coordinator who coordinates the event through the CCPD. The cost for that is $5 per UTV.

Starr and council member Patrick Lumley both stated that they had heard from citizens with concerns as to the cost and purpose of the fee. Starr said he has been approached by people who believed that a fee would discourage people from out of town from coming to the city.

“Their suggestion was to scrap the fee and let this be the prototype for other communities in our area,” Starr said. He wondered if the fees were necessary.

“We have to take the time to register these things, and get the stickers out,” City Administrator Steve Diers told Starr. “We are adding to the responsibilities and to the time of the Police Department, just by having these vehicles in town.”

Starr pointed out that the vehicles are already registered with the state, and that some people from out of town are likely to just choose not to register and take their chances.

“I would rather see our Police Department not tied up in any administrative work like this,” Starr said. “I think there are other things they could be doing that are more beneficial.”

Charles City Police Chief Hugh Anderson said the vehicles are registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, not the Department of Transportation.

“The payment to the DNR is not necessarily for street use,” council member Philip Knighten said. “The $30 is for the ability to use the UTVs on our streets.”

Anderson said that fees in other cities range from $20-$100, with most of them on the high end of that span.

“This is on the lower side of what many other area communities charge,” Anderson said.

He said that he’s already heard from nine people who are waiting to get their vehicles registered.

“Most of them have not expressed concerns about the fee,” he said, and added that people have instead told him they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on their UTVs, and a $30 fee is very minimal. “I know there will be people who are upset about the fee. You’re never going to make everyone happy.”

Lumley said that he thought the $30 fee was fair, and that council members have given the issue its due diligence.

“The ordinance really mirrors what they do in other communities … and charging a fee is the standard that all the other cities have set,” Lumley said. “The positive note is that the fee being charged is a lot lower than what you’d find in other communities.”

Knighten pointed out that no matter how high the fee is, the UTVs will add to the responsibilities of the police.

“Whether we collect a fee or not, there’s going to be an added burden on the police to patrol all the extra vehicles that come into the city,” Knighten said. “Whether or not we collect this fee, it’s going to be an added cost for the Police Department.”

He added that in the future, he would like to see up-front inspections of the UTVs “just to make sure they have the all the things that make it just as safe as other road vehicles.”

Starr made the motion to set the fees at $30 and $5, and council member Phoebe Pittman seconded the motion, although she agreed that it would be a good idea to revisit the issue in the future.

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