CW considers sex offender legislation; tennis courts; and golf c

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With the 2003 passage of an Ohio law prohibiting registered sexually-oriented offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, municipalities are jumping on board and expanding the law through local legislation.

Canal Winchester is joining Grove City, Hilliard, Pickerington, Grandview, and Upper Arlington in proposing or enacting tougher standards for sexual offenders living or working in the community.

Canal Winchester Law Director Gene Hollins wrote in a memorandum to Mayor Jeff Miller that the sexual offender law has been held constitutional by several courts, including the federal district court that has jurisdiction over the village. His correspondence also included draft legislation under consideration by council.

According to Hollins, Judge Beckwith stated, "The public has a compelling interest in protecting children from sexual offenders and (the Ohio statute) furthers that goal by prohibiting sex offenders from establishing permanent residences in areas where children are sure to be concentrated."

Modeled after a Hilliard ordinance in which the municipality specifically targets sexual offenders whose victims were children, the one under consideration by Canal Winchester adds additional locations beyond school premises, to places where children are likely to be concentrated such as licensed say care facilities, preschools, village-owned or operated public parks/playgrounds, library, or public swimming pool.

"In addition or in the alternative to local legislation, the village should educate members of the general public regarding tools that are available to identify where sexually-oriented offenders currently live and work in the community," commented Hollins. "The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has a Web site (www.sheriff.franklin.oh.us/Registry/enter.asp) where people can get a listing of registered sexual offenders in their community.

"This Web site lists 17 individuals that live in Canal Winchester, along with their home address and details of their cases. People can also sign up for an e-mail notification of when registered sexual offenders move within one mile of any address."

Hollins said the Ohio Attorney General’s Web site also has a search engine for work and home locations for sexual offenders. He said the site lists the same 17 individuals, in addition to five more who work in Canal Winchester.

Tennis courts

"When you think of the village, you think of utilities, roads, and parks," said Canal Winchester Council President John Bender concerning the need for additional tennis courts, "but we’re a community of 6,500 people and we don’t have community tennis courts. Not everybody plays softball. If there is someway we can work together with the schools and put together some tennis courts, it would be very beneficial for the community."

The Canal Winchester school district owns a pair of aging tennis courts the district is in the process of replacing at a cost of $90,000. John Gifford, operations director for the district, said the two courts are in a bad state of disrepair, with four-inch cracks on the surface. The school district would like to have a total of five so tournaments could be played in Canal Winchester.

Ideas presented for joint use of the courts, when they are not needed by students for physical education or team play, included a paid token system which could be used to access the courts and lights for play after dark.

"It costs $45,000 per court," reported Gifford. "We have enough money for two."

The mayor said discussions with EMH&T and a large lobbying group resulted in a desire to construct more tennis courts for residential use. Bender said he would really like to see the village become a partner with the district and move forward with the project.

However popular the idea may be, Finance Director Nanisa Osborn said it is not possible for the village to participate in 2007 and the budget has already been adopted for 2008. Osborn told council they would have to bump a project in order to pick up a new one and because the village is bound by a prevailing wage requirement, the cost could be higher than presented by district representatives.

Gifford reported the school board is ready to fix the two courts now, and then grade the site with the potential for constructing additional tennis courts later.

Golf carts on CW’s streets

What was once the dominate form of mobility for golfers, could soon become a mode of transportation for residents on streets with speeds of less than 35 miles per hour in Canal Winchester. Discussions on the use of golf carts became a hot topic when homeowners in Ashbrook Village asked council to consider allowing the use of golf carts on a regular basis.

Drivers have been ticketed by Fairfield County deputies for their use of public roadways, including Jeanne Fealy, who was stopped by deputies when she and her terminally ill husband drove home in their golf cart from a trip to a neighboring pond.  Although Fealy said the officers were  courteous, the couple was both embarrassed and humiliated by the incident.

On July 2, council held a first reading on a resolution authorizing the village and Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department to determine the best procedure for implementing a policy on the use of golf carts as motorized vehicles on village streets. However, Hollins said there is already a state law on the books, which does not require local legislation, but does mandate an inspection program run by the sheriff’s office where the golf cart is located. At the time, Fairfield did not have a program in place.

Sgt. K.C. Kern told council at its July 30 meeting his department investigated the issue and is now prepared to start an inspection program as soon as the village passes an ordinance outlining funding specifications. They are also required to send a letter to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which has been drafted.

"Our plan is to educate the public before they come to us," commented Kern.

However, Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon expressed concern over transportation needs for the upcoming Labor Day festivities.

"It’s going to be a real problem for the Labor Day Festival," said Mershon. "The issue is the Labor Day committee goes out and picks up senior citizens and brings them to the festival."

Osborn stated the council needs to draft two pieces of legislation for the state auditor’s office-to establish the fund and then establish the fee and set the speed limit. Kern said most golf carts cannot travel faster than 20 miles per hour and retrofit kits designed to bring carts up to road-worthy standards are approximately $500-$700.

"As soon as we get an ordinance where to set the money, we’re good to go," Kern said during his report.

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