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Cleaning up Othello's Municipal Code

The Othello Outlook of Othello, Washington

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Othello Police Chief Phil Schenck brought no less than nine different ordinances before the city council to review during their workshop Monday night.

The purpose was to review them and receive input from the council so that during the next meeting all of them could be treated as consent agenda items, freeing up time for budget discussions that will be continuing. The city's codes are published online by Code Publishing Inc., which conducted an audit of its code this year.

"A lot of what I've brought in front of you tonight is housekeeping," Schenck said.

Of the codes presented by Schenck, some were simple changes with many of them either being repealed or having their penalties changed from misdemeanors to civil infractions.

"We cannot have any municipal codes that are misdemeanors. They have to be civil infractions," he said.

The council agreed that during the next meeting ordinances 5.24 Volcanic Ash Control and 9.16 Railroad Trains would be repealed in the consent agenda. Also presented by Schenck were a number of new ordinances, the first of which repealed OMC 6.08 Domestic Animals to be replaced with 6.08 Livestock.

This change would not only prohibit the keeping of livestock animals, such as mules, sheep, pigs, cattle or any animal that could be described as livestock, within the Othello city limits, it also would prohibit the slaughtering and butchering of animals, as well.

This would not be prohibited for licensed businesses in the city, according to Schenck, but is meant to keep people from slaughtering and butchering animals in their yards.

The next was the creation of OMC 6.14 Venomous and Wild Animals. This code not only prohibits the keeping of venomous species, but also wild animals and any snake greater than six feet in length.

"The recommendation on 6 foot is a snake, a boa or some other snake under 6 foot (long) is not likely to be able to wrap around you and kill you," Schenck said.

These codes were agreed upon by the council and will also be approved in the consent agenda Nov. 9.

The final ordinance brought before the council Monday that will be approved in the Nov. 9 consent agenda is the repeal of OMC 2.12 and the creation of two new ordinances, OMC 2.12 and 2.13 Police Department and Police Reserve Unit.

Currently, the Police Department and Police Reserve unit are included in the same ordinance, which establishes a pay scale for the reserve officers, as well as grants them authority beyond what is authorized by statute.

Separating the two into their own ordinances allows the city to limit reserve officers' authority while establishing a reserve unit.

One ordinance that was brought before the council at the workshop meeting was overwhelming rejected by council members, OMC 6.12 Chicken and Rabbits.

Shenck proposed repealing the current ordinance, OMC 6.12 Fowl, and creating a new ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to three chickens or rabbits within the city limits.

The ordinance established guidelines for housing, care and separation of the animals from neighbors and public areas, as well as a licensing system.

Three of the ordinances brought before council brought up additional concerns from the council and Schenck will be returning to the next meeting with additional information to consider.

The first, OMC 9.08.065, council member Corey Everett wanted to see if some of the restrictions for on street parking could be lifted specifically on First Avenue between Pine and Juniper Street.

"It's only restricted for three hours a night," he said.

Additionally, the council will consider OMC 9.12.060, which allows the city to establish load limits throughout the city whenever a street, alley or thoroughfare may be damaged by heavy traffic. This ordinance will be reviewed further to see how it affects city and emergency services and if exceptions can be added to the law.

The final one is the amendment to OMC 9.32 Speed Limits. This section of the code governs the designation of speed limits throughout the city. Most of the changes to the ordinance are cleaning up the wording to make it more concise and accurate as to the 25 mph and 35 mph zones.

Also proposed was raising the speed limit of Main Street to 30 mph from the western edge of the city to the designated 35 mph zone at the east edge.

City staff has been monitoring the traffic on Main Street near Sixth Avenue with a JAMAR Technologies Inc. radar recorder to perform traffic counts.

According to Othello Community Development Director Travis Goddard, counts were taken over a one-week period in the month of June.

The results found that of drivers on Main Street, only 31.7 percent travel at or below the posted 25 mph speed limit. The vast majority of drivers, 68.3 percent, exceed the speed limit.

According to the data collected, only 19.6 per-' cent of vehicles exceed 30 mph and 2.7 percent travel in excess of 35 mph.

With this data, Goddard recommended the 5 mph increase along the section of Main Street.

This was met with strong opposition from members of the council.

"The higher you put it, the faster they're going to go, just like on the highways," council member Mark Snyder said.

If the speed limit is 60 mph, drivers will travel at 65 mph, if it's 70 mph, they will travel at 75, he said.

Council members were also concerned about the problems with pedestrians that the Othello Police Department is currently working to address throughout the city.

The change also had support from council members, as well.

"I try to do 25 (mph), but it's real easy to find yourself doing 30 (mph) when it has to do with the width of the road," council member Gena Dorrow said. "The wider the road, the more your perception is that you're going way too slow."

In addition to how wide Main Street is, another argument in support of the increase is speed is accommodating how traffic is already flowing, allowing the police department to target the smaller number of vehicles that are exceeding 30 mph.

"We can enforce and enforce and enforce and we will not be able to reduce speed unless we keep doing that and it becomes a real high emphasis for us," Schenck said.

Schenck and Goddard were instructed to prepare an ordinance to come before the council during the next city council meeting for additional discussion.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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