Mayor: Ban texting by drivers

Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews told city council Thursday that he would like to see tighter regulations on texting while driving within the city limits.

“Something has to be done, so I’m recommending a complete ban on texting by drivers,” he added following the council meeting.

An Ohio law banning texting while driving went into effect March 1 of this year, but it limits law officers to issuing citations on texting only as a second offense, meaning a driver can’t be pulled over for texting alone-he or she must also be committing a primary offense like excessive speeding.

Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick noted texting is only a primary offense for drivers under the age of 18 who are not allowed to use cell phones in any way while operating a vehicle.

Council would have to develop city-specific legislation banning texting in order to tighten the current state regulations.

In other business Thursday, council approved two resolutions requesting the withdrawal of grant applications targeted at funding the next phase of the city’s River Trail project.

“Since the city was not approved for a Transportation Enhancement Grant from ODOT, we’re withdrawing our applications for these Ohio Department of Natural Resources grants,” said Councilman Denver Abicht, D-at large, who chairs the streets and transportation committee.

The Transportation Enhancement Grant application to the Ohio Department of Transportation, worth $871,166, was recently denied by ODOT, leaving the city without enough funding to continue the next phase of the project, extending the trail from Jefferson Street to the Walmart complex.

Because that grant was not approved, the city is asking that applications for a $150,000 Recreational Trails grant and a $250,000 Clean Ohio Trails grant from ODNR be withdrawn for the 2014 grant cycle. Those grants would not be usable without the additional ODOT funding.

“But we will reapply for those grants next year,” Abicht said.

Also on Thursday, council members heard the first reading of a resolution authorizing the Marietta Shrine Club to tap into the city’s water system.

Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, and chairman of the water, sewer and sanitation committee noted the well from which the club has been drawing water on its property near the Marietta Aquatic Center has failed, and club officials are now requesting to install two taps into the city water system.

No action was required on the resolution’s first reading Thursday night.