Port St. Joe leaders frequently embrace the concept of a golf cart community.
Commissioners just wish there was more of a community adherence to basic regulations.
Long-running issues with golf carts and how they are used in the city will be the topic of discussion during a 6 p.m. ET workshop on June 26.
The workshop will be held at the Commission meeting room in the Ward Ridge Building.
Among factors to be discussed are the lack of an enforcement mechanism, insurance questions and signage.
For several months, various commissioners have expressed concern and frustration with golf cart usage, particularly the driving of carts on streets and pathways prohibited to golf carts as well as underage drivers.
Commissioner Rex Buzzett has urged more signage along the Port City Trail, which is prohibited to motorized vehicles, including golf carts, save for select residents who must use the trail to access their property.
Mayor Bo Patterson has expressed concern with underage drivers and youngsters being on the back of the cart, or in the driver’s arms, without restraint.
For Police Chief Matt Herring, the issue becomes what steps he and his officers can take under an ordinance lacking “teeth.”
In effect, there is no enforcement arm in place for violations of the golf cart ordinance, violations which carry minor monetary fines even after three documented violations.
“I can take them back to their home and tell them they are not allowed to operate their golf cart like that, but that is about it,” Herring told commissioners last week, urging them to take action.
Herring said the city was incurring a significant liability exposure in the case of a tragic, fatal or serious accident with the lack of an enforcement arm.
City officials have discussed enforcement before, but a hurdle is establishing a system through the Gulf County Clerk of Courts to process fines and the dollars.
The discussion has never gone as far as focusing on actual costs and viability with the Clerk of Courts of such a system.
As currently detailed in the golf cart ordinance, originally passed in 2006 and amended four times since, either the city’s code enforcement officer or police officers are empowered to write tickets.
However, without a system to collect and process the fines, a task the city is not currently equipped to perform, tickets are merely paper.
Another significant factor in the debate is the illegal operation of golf carts with near impunity.
“I don’t know whether people don’t know the rules or they know the rules and they just don’t care,” Patterson said.
For starters, a golf cart must be registered with the city and display a valid permit received with an application fee of $35 per year.
The golf cart must be inspected as part of the permitting.
Herring said there were some 225 permitted golf carts within the city limits.
The golf cart ordinance, even amended, bars any driver under the age of 15.
A 15-year-old with a temporary driver’s permit may operate a golf cart as long as there is a licensed driver at least 21-years-old in the cart.
Otherwise, golf carts must be operated by a licensed driver.
As several commissioners have noted in recent months, most any tour of the city finds that rule being all but ignored.
In addition, Cecil G. Costin Blvd. (Fifth Street or State 71) is off limits to golf carts save the crossing at Reid Ave.
There is a crossing of U.S. 98 at First Street, but otherwise the highway is off limits.
Golf carts can only drive on Long and Garrison to reach the next access road.
Monument is open to carts only from Allen Memorial to Ninth Street.
Golf carts are prohibited from the entire length of the Port City Trail