City to step up boat permit enforcement

If you plan to put a boat on Vandalia Lake, it better have a permit sticker attached.
The decision to step up enforcement of the city ordinance requiring permits for boats on the lake was made during a meeting of the city council’s lake committee on Monday.
And that decision comes as a result of complaints from individuals buying boating permits.
City Clerk Peggy Bowen said, “We had a person who said, ‘I don’t understand why I’m getting a boat sticker because there are so many out there that don’t even have a sticker on them.’
“It’s not just one or two people (complaining),” she said. “It’s even people who live out there.
Melinda Garrison of Bowen’s office agreed. “There are a lot of people on the lake who don’t have stickers.”
Alderman Mike Hobler said that the lake patrol issued warnings last year and that “we can either do that or issue them a fine. It’s just a matter of how strict we want to be.”
“The people who live on the lake ought to know that they have to have a boat permit,” Bowen said.
“I won’t dispute that,” Hobler said.
Lake Manager Rob Schukar said that lake patrol staff checked boats at homes on the lake and issued warnings to those having boats without stickers.
He also clarified that the lake hosts a number of tournaments through which out-of-town residents are on the lake for just one day.
In addition to the annual permit stickers, the city issues one-day permits.
Schukar said that the lake has been patrolled only on weekends, due to the size of the lake staff and its other duties, including mowing the marina and campground areas.
The lake patrol staff wrote down the names of boat owners who were issued warnings for not having boat permits, but no action was taken after that.
“If they see a boat without a permit, they will turn around and stop them,” Schukar said. But, he said, lake patrol has never written a ticket for that or any other violation.
Garrison said that an individual recently came in and paid more than $300 for permits and said, “I’m doing the right thing by doing this. I know I’m supposed to have these, but there are a lot of people on the lake that don’t have stickers.
“He said, ‘It’s a little bit disheartening for some people to do the right thing and others get by with it,’” she said.
Schukar said that if directed to do so, the lake patrol will stop those without a permit and tell them to either get a permit or get off of the lake.
He said that he has an employee sit on the marina parking lot on holidays to check for boats without permits.
Schukar also said that from this point, when lake patrol issues warning tickets, that information is relayed to the clerk’s office.
Garrison asked whether any individuals have been fined for not having a permit.
“I’m not aware of any,” Hobler said.
“I think people know that, ‘they’re just going to slap me on the band,’” Garrison said. “So, they stopped me, it’s no big deal.”
She also said that some come into get a permit and don’t have their insurance information. Given the permit, they never return with the insurance information.
Garrison said that she has revoked some licenses, “but how do you catch somebody who’s been revoked – you go out on the lake all day and wait for them to come; you can’t do that.”
Bowen said, “You are missing out on thousands of dollars” by not enforcing the boat permit ordinance.
At the suggestion of City Attorney Ryan Connor, aldermen agreed to send letters to lake residents who were issued warnings, giving them two weeks to either get a permit or take their boats off of the lake.
Connor said after the lake committee meeting on Monday that a starting date for the two-week period will be selected soon.
Connor said that the minimum fine for violators of the ordinance is $100, and by the time they go to court and pay court fines and fees, it’s $350-$400.
Violators “will be unhappily surprised at the amount it is,” Connor said.
Bowen said, “You won’t get anything when it goes to court,” but Connor said that while that could be true, the city is doing the right thing by enforcing the ordinance.
Also, he said, “You will get some blowback compliance” by others seeing that tickets are being issued.

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