Richard Newell served his country in World War II, returned to the city where he grew up, raised a family and wants the freedom to come and go as he pleases.
That freedom is compromised by an Ohio law that makes it illegal to drive his golf cart on city streets. Officials here say they want to help Newell but can’t legally do it because golf carts don’t qualify as low-speed vehicles, which are legal.
His daughter, Patty Newell Humlie, says she understands but wishes there was some way Newell could maintain some independence.
Newell, a decorated World War II veteran, is 86 and suffers from congestive heart failure, diabetes and limited mobility. Newell Humlie, of Seattle, said her father can’t walk more than 5 feet without pain in his legs.”
Newell was riding his cart on West Salem Street on Aug. 19 when he was stopped by Police Chief Tim Gladis and warned he was no longer allowed to ride on city streets.
Newell Humlie and Maureen Nesselrotte, her father’s caregiver, addressed city council twice this month, asking for special consideration or for an ordinance to override the Ohio law.
Gladis has recommended council not adopt new legislation because of safety issues. The city’s growth in recent years means there is heavy vehicle and truck traffic in certain areas, which create a danger to motorists and operators of smaller motorized vehicles, he said.
He explained that low-speed vehicles, such as scooters, can operate within the city if they’re titled and insured, and have seat belts, a windshield, rearview mirrors, a horn, turn signals, headlights and brake lights.
Newell’s cart is insured and equipped with many safety features, but Gladis said it doesn’t qualify as a low-speed vehicle and the city can’t make an exemption for one person.
“I don’t have the authority to give someone special permission to violate state law,” he told The Vindicator in a recent phone interview.
Gladis said the department has received complaints when Newell was out driving and noted it’s a “hot topic” that elicits strong feelings on both sides.
Newell likes to watch football games and drive his cart at Firestone Park, which abuts his property on Park Place.
His father, Earl Newell, helped engineer the design of the park, and as a boy, Newell held measuring rods for surveyors.
Councilman James King has suggested the city might be able to provide Newell with an EMS transport to football games if he wants to attend, but Newell Humlie said a caregiver could take him.
Newell spent his engineering career building bridges throughout Ohio and was active in Columbiana and the local Rotary.
Gladis told council Newell is “one of the finest guys you can meet” but added his status in the community can’t be a factor when it comes to enforcing law.