FLINT TWP. – To comply with more changes in state law, the township board is once again revising its controversial Traffic Safety Ordinance.
The ordinance prohibiting solicitation in the street, was based on the Michigan Traffic Code and was first passed in January 2015 to counter a growing problem with panhandlers on street corners. Effective March 1, 2015, the ordinance regulated interference with motor vehicles on public streets by prohibiting money or any other object to be passed, without authorization, from or into a motor vehicle operating on a public street, except for emergency services and repairs.
The ordinance amendment was amended in October 2017 to comply with a change in state law that allowed 501(c)(3), charitable organizations such as the Old Newsboys to resume street solicitations, with restrictions.
The pending second amendment to the local ordinance had a first reading at the board’s last meeting and will come up for second reading and adoption at the board’s May 7 meeting.
It is being amended to expand the definition of allowed charitable organizations to include those qualified under 501(c)(4), 501(c)(7), 501(c)(8) or 501(c)(10) of the Internal Revenue Code, or a veterans’ organization that has tax-exempt status under the IRS code.
The remainder of Ordinance remains unchanged including conditions set when the ordinance was revised last year. Those include that the organization has liability insurance; that collectors be at least 18 years old and wear high visibility clothing in compliance with safety equipment standards; that the collections take place at intersection with traffic lights or stop signs and be conducted only during the daytime. Also, collections cannot take place in a work zone and local government units still have some say on regulating those collections.
If passed after second reading, the ordinance is due to become effective after its second publication on May 10.
Only one charitable organization at a time will be allowed in any roadway for collection, according to the township ordinance
Locking down its dates early this year, the Old Newsboys already has submitted its application for its annual newspaper street sale on December 14.
The Old Newsboys was among those hardest hit by the original Traffic Safety Ordinance which banned the newspaper sale – one of its biggest fundraisers – to the curbside for two years.
The amendment to the Traffic Safety Ordinance approved last year allowed the group to return to designated street corners under the aforementioned conditions.
Old Newsboys’ application asked the township board to approve those same street corners again this year. They are:
• Flushing Road and Ballenger Hwy.
• Torrey and Maple roads
• Hemphill and Van Slyke roads
• Fenton and Hemphill roads
• Fenton and Maple roads
• Graham and Calkins roads
• Graham Road and Court Street
• Beecher and Elms roads
• Dye Road and Court Street
• Dye and Calkins roads
• Dye and Beecher roads
• Court and Ryan streets
• Lennon and Elms roads
The amended state law does give local government units some say on regulating street collections. For that reason, some of the eight soliciting locations initially requested by Old Newsboys last year permit were deemed unsafe by a committee that included the township supervisor and clerk, the police chief and other police personnel.
Asked to comment during the first reading of the proposed amendment, Police Chief George Sippert said his ongoing concern is about safety in “a world where we have so many distracted drivers.”
Limiting where organizations can collect is based on speed limits, stop signs and the number of traffic lanes. Where there are multiple lanes of traffic, when the light turns green, the solicitors must rush to get out of the way and could get hurt or killed if distracted drivers are not paying attention, Chief Sippert said.
“We don’t want to do that, especially in the pre-holiday season,” he said.
All of ONB’s application paperwork was in order, said Clerk Kathy Funk.
The township board approved collection hours for the sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but the ONB collection is expected to conclude by about 3:30 p.m.