Enforcement questions arise in New London
By John Faucher
The New London Parks and Recreation Committee tabled a request to implement a slow-no-wake zone from the Pearl Street Bridge upstream past the curve at New London Utilities.
The committee tabled the discussion at its June 5 meeting to collect more information and allow the police department to weigh in on the topic of enforcement.
Most of the 23 citizens in attendance at the meeting where there petitioning for the slow-no-wake request.
Clyde Raney a property owner along East Wolf River Avenue addressed the committee first. He said safety was the primary concern and reason for the petition.
“The power company curve is a blind curve and an accident waiting to happen,” said Raney.
He also cited the increased numbers of anglers that congregate in the vicinity during the spring and fall fishing runs. He explained that many boats drift from the power company to the mouth of the Embarrass while others anchor in the area during the fishing season.
“New London is growing, and so is the river traffic,” said Raney. “Now boats have larger motors, more speed and still no brakes.”
Kay Patterson, a resident across the river from Raney, said they have also seen an increased number of tubers, canoes and kayaks using the river.
Jerry Schumacher a resident on East Wolf River Avenue agreed.
“It’s just not a good situation, the river is pretty narrow there,” said Schumacher.
Kevin Beyer, a resident across the river from the utility company said that he has seen some narrow escapes, and he felt it was a very dangerous corner.
Research prior to the meeting found no recorded accidents on that stretch of river.
Gerald Magolski was the only resident at the meeting who spoke in opposition to the proposal.
“I’ve been fishing on the river for over 50 years. I’m not really fond of creating a slow-no-wake,” said Magolski. “If everyone would have a little respect and stay on their side of the river, I don’t see any problem.”
Karl Kanaman, a resident in the existing slow-no-wake near the boat landing said he would be in favor of making the entire city slow-no-wake, even though he felt enforcement was lacking in the current area.
Kanaman also spoke about erosion issues on the river.
“Those of you who have lived here for a while see it. Every year it gets worse. The shore is being washed away, it’s leaving us,” said Kanaman. “We’ve all seen pictures from New London years ago when people were lined up on the river and everyone had row boats. Look at it today, it’s no longer 1950, it’s 2015.”
Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth used the city’s GIS mapping system and overhead screen to point out the area proposed for the slow-no-wake. Computer generated measurements showed the river width ranged from 150 to 186 feet in the proposed area.
Raney and others disputed that and said they thought it was closer to 80 feet.
After the meeting, committee member Bob Besaw measured the width with a hand held range finder. He recorded widths of 141 feet to 183 feet at 10 different locations within the area of question.
He gave the measurements to Hoerth for future reference on the topic.
Hoerth spent additional time researching slow-no-wake regulations, prior to the meeting.
He informed committee members that Wisconsin State Statues 30.73-30.99 regulates “slow-no-wake.”
“When a municipality creates a slow-no-wake ordinance, it must only be in the interest of public health, safety or welfare, including the public’s interest in preserving the state’s natural resources,” said Hoerth.
“A municipality cannot create an ordinance based on damage to private property; only for safety or for preserving natural resources.”
Hoerth also said he was told if a municipality creates a slow-no-wake ordinance, the municipality needs to provide the enforcement behind the ordinance.
In regards to taking a stance on creating a slow-no-wake ordinance, Hoerth said the DNR is neutral and will only provide guidance based off state statutes.
He informed the committee if they intended to move forward with the current request other city residents along the river will most certainly make similar requests in front of their residences. Therefore, he said the committee might consider making the entire city slow-no-wake.
He also informed them that if they did create the ordinance they would need to plan on additional funding for enforcement.
“This would include consideration of purchasing a patrol boat and additional labor for enforcement,” said Hoerth. “An ordinance that is not enforced, leads to increased violations and increased complaints.”
Committee chairperson Rob Way said he would like the police department to weigh in on the issue of enforcement.
Committee member Denis Herter made a motion to table the discussion until the committee had a chance to obtain law enforcement’s perspective, and look at the costs involved.
Alderman Tom O’Connell said, “We do have home rule. We create the legislation or the law, and it’s their job to enforce it.”
The issue will be placed on a future agenda.
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter placed a radar gun/traffic counter on the Wolf River to begin gathering data for future discussions on the topic.