Texting-while-driving ban approved

An ordinance that bans texting while driving within the city of Marietta was adopted by Marietta City Council Thursday.

The legislation will become fully effective on or about July 5, according to city law director Paul Bertram III.

“That will be approximately 120 days from passage of the ordinance,” he said. “But during that time period city police will be able to issue warning citations.”

Bertram noted issuing warnings would help remind drivers that the legislation has been passed and that after July 5 they will be fined for texting or operating hand held cell phones and other wireless devices while operating a vehicle.

Councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, thanked his fellow council members for approving the texting ban.

“If this ban saves even one life, then it will have served its purpose,” he said. “Texting while driving is simply dangerous.”

Drilling issue

Also on Thursday, council heard the first reading of Ordinance 64, authorizing the city safety-service director to advertise for bids to lease up to 95 acres of city property to oil and gas interests. No action was taken on the measure, but a second reading and possible final vote on the legislation is expected to take place during the next regular council session March 20.

Building code

Council did not vote to override a veto by Mayor Joe Matthews on an ordinance setting penalties for violation of the city’s property maintenance code.

The legislation was passed by a narrow 4-3 vote during city council’s last regular meeting on Feb. 20, but Matthews did not officially veto the measure until a letter he sent to council president Josh Schlicher, giving his reasons for the veto, was read into the record during Thursday’s meeting, according to Bertram.

“Council cannot vote to override the veto until 10 days after it was read into the official record,” he said. “If council is asked to override the veto, that would have to take place during the March 20 meeting.”

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, who chairs council’s planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, has not officially indicated whether he will seek an override of the veto or not at that time.

During the public comments segment of Thursday’s council meeting, local resident Jon Eells of Sandhill Road said the property maintenance code, passed by council last fall, is an added layer of bureaucracy that the city does not need.

“We believe this law is not in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Marietta resident Jim Bennett agreed, adding that he applauded the mayor’s veto of the Feb. 20 property maintenance code penalty legislation.

“I’m all in favor of health and safety of our community, but I’m also in favor of common sense,” he said.

But citizen Dan Harrison congratulated Kalter for working to develop the legislation, noting that although the city has had a property maintenance code for more than 15 years now, the law was not being enforced.

“That code has been shoved under the rug,” he said. “If you’re not going to enforce the code, don’t do anything.”

Harrison added that he would be willing to work with Kalter, the mayor, council and other community members to develop a workable property maintenance code for the city.