CHESTER - Every day thousands of cars and trucks drive through Chester on state Route 2.
Known as Carolina Avenue to locals, Chester's main street gets so congested that traffic often slows to a crawl. But it's the actions of residents riding on city streets in golf carts that have the attention of City Council.
"I never thought this would be a hot-button issue in the city of Chester," Mayor Ken Morris said at Monday night's council meeting.
Council members have been debating the issue for about two months, and Monday's meeting brought them a little closer to a solution.
City leaders worry that people riding around on golf carts - there are known to be about six of them - are creating an unsafe situation on city streets. They're also aware that at least one person rides a golf cart because he's handicapped.
"We have a state route that has thousands of cars on it a day, and there are people on golf carts driving around like it's a camp resort," Morris said. "If somebody whacks someone in a golf cart, they're going to roll right over them."
Police Chief Ken Thorn said state law prohibits golf carts on public roads.
"They're illegal in the city, except on private property," he said.
The city should either enforce the state code, he said, or find a way to regulate golf carts so that they're permitted only on back streets.
"It's an issue we need to address, one way or another," Thorn said.
Two residents who drive golf carts in the city attended Monday's meeting and appealed to council for a common-sense solution.
Joe Geisse, a former city councilman, said he bought his golf cart two months ago.
"It's my way of going green a little bit," he said, noting that in the time he's had the cart, he's put $9 of gas in the tank.
Geisse said he understands council's concern.
"I've witnessed some indiscretions (by other drivers)," he said. "I agree there needs to be some rules."
Council's ordinance committee has researched the issue, recently reviewing laws on the books in Fairmont, Berkeley Springs and Wheeling. All three cities prohibit golf carts on public roads, City Clerk Sandra Parkins said.
Geisse said he rides his cart mostly on back streets and off to the side. To him, it's a convenient form of transportation for short trips and a harmless form of entertainment.
"There's a lot of people having a lot of fun," he said. "Don't let a couple bad incidents ruin it for everyone."
City Solicitor April Raines said the city needs to protect itself and cover all its legal bases.
"If they're illegal, they shouldn't be on the roads," she said. "I think it's a huge liability for the city."
Council tabled the matter on Monday and agreed to do more research before drafting any legislation. Geisse said he will submit a list of recommendations to council.
Also Monday council authorized the installation of a brighter light at the Dr. David S. Pugh Overlook on First Street, which has been vandalized in recent months.
Councilman Dennis Murray said the new light will be 10 times brighter than the current one - from 9,500 lumens to 90,000 lumens. The light will be installed by Mon Power and paid for by the city.
The city also is installing video cameras at the Ohio River overlook for extra security.
In other business, council hired Donnie Gillespie to fill a vacancy in the street department.