ESCANABA -Because of public safety concerns, Escanaba is considering banning drivers from using their hands to talk on cell phones while driving.
During a work session Thursday, Escanaba City Council discussed the possibility of developing an ordinance allowing hands-free cell phone usage while operating a motor vehicle but no talking and texting by hand.
"This was brought up at council meetings. I thought it was important to discuss," City Manager Jim O'Toole told council. He added the purpose of such an ordinance would be for the safety of the public.
Capt. Al O'Dell of Escanaba Public Safety, agreed that not holding a cell phone while driving makes for safer driving for everyone concerned.
"It should be a statewide law," O'Dell said, adding a local ordinance would have to be enforced to be effective.
Council members Gilbert Cheves and Tom Warstler recounted recent incidents where their vehicles were almost involved in accidents because of other drivers using cell phones while going down the road.
Following consensus of council, O'Toole said he would research the issue and get back to council with more information.
During the work session, council also discussed developing a policy on memorials, monuments and public art being placed on public property in the city.
Concerns on permanent displays first became an issue with the installation of the Red Buck artwork in Ludington Park, O'Toole said. A local artist was commissioned to create the art which was chosen by the public in a joint project between the city and Bonifas Art Center.
Since then, the city has been approached by others requesting to place monuments on public property, O'Toole said, concerned about monitoring future displays.
O'Toole suggested council look into developing a policy on what, where, when and why permanent memorials or artwork can be put up in the city. The policy should provide the public with an understanding of the decision-making process, he said. Council would have the ultimate approval, he added.
Council agreed to have a committee work on a policy to present for council approval. An inventory will also be conducted of current monuments and art on city property.
Other items discussed at the work session included expanding wireless opportunities downtown, redesigning the city's Web site, and expanding a snowmobile route on the west side of the city. Council members were also updated on the status of abandoned buildings in Escanaba.
Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com