Laguna Vista considers ‘hands-free’ ordinance

Special to the PRESS

After a local woman taking a morning walk along FM 510 was struck and killed by a texting driver, Laguna Vista officials voted Tuesday to beef-up local regulations and work toward a ‘hands-free’ driving zone within its corporate limits.

Councilmen Gary Meschi and Wanda Reyes Rice initiated the move saying the recently adopted ordinance against texting and driving had ‘no teeth’ and police were unable to enforce it due to their inability to prove a driver was texting rather than merely talking on their phones.

The measure, if adopted on its second reading in November, would allow police to stop motorists on their phones while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. “This will at least make an effort to get people who are texting off the road,” Meschi said.

“This is about the overall safety of the community. This will let the community know that the City is serious. It will serve as a deterrent and show that Laguna Vista cares,” said Councilwoman Wanda Reyes-Rice.

Additional and larger signage is needed to promote the message, the council members said.

The use of hands-free devices, such as built-in telephone systems — such as Bluetooth systems — in more modern vehicles would not strip drivers of the ability to talk on their phones while driving, Meschi said.

“This is about saving lives,” both Meschi and Reyes-Rice said.

Similar ordinances are being considered in several other Valley cities, Mayor Susie Houston said. “I don’t like infringements upon my rights, but it only takes three to five minutes to get from one side of town to the other,” she said.

In other matters, the Town Council:

  • Took no action on a request by Joe Vela for a special permit for the next three months to use the large gazebo in Roloff Park for tumbling/gymnastics classes.
  • Took no action on authorizing the city manager to initiate the process to amend the Home Rule Charter at the November 2015 election to include a section that the Town-owned Marina will be used as a marina in perpetuity.
  • Voted to nominate attorney Ricardo Morado to serve on the Cameron Appraisal District’s board of directors.
  • Voted to keep the Port Isabel South Padre Press as the Town’s official newspaper of record for the publication of legal notices and ordinances.
  • Voted to approve Resolution 2015-26 authorizing the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, Inc. (TCAP) to negotiate an electric supply agreement for three years.
  • Voted to approve pay raises in the amount of five percent for the positions of city manager, city secretary and police chief and authorize an appropriate budget amendment. Other Town employees received pay raises with the adoption of the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year budget on Oct. 1.
  • Voted to approve an audit agreement with Pattillo, Brown & Hill, L.L.P. for the 2014-15 Fiscal Year audit in the amount of $16,000.
  • Heard an update on the Town’s Certificates of Obligation fund which contains $47,149.

The Town will host Movie Night at Roloff Park on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

A joint workshop with the Laguna Vista Recreational Association to discuss the future of the Town’s marina is scheduled Oct. 26 at Roloff Park. The session is open to the public.

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