Roadblock rules pass 2nd reading

Friday, July 17, 2009

Faced with a youth baseball league advocate's opposition and the support of a man whose daughter was injured during a soccer fundraiser on a public road, Lewisburg's City Council voted on Tuesday for more rules and better policing of fundraising events on the Courthouse square.

"If she was half a second faster, she might not be here," Dan Bennington of Gina Lynn Drive told the Council of his daughter, Nicole Bennington Aziminia, 27, now of La Vergne, who'd been collecting donations for her soccer team 10 years ago when she was struck by a passing pickup truck's rearview mirror.

Her injuries included facial cuts and scrapes, and "a crack on the head," Bennington said.

Having heard Bennington's request for enforcement, Kevin Baker, who works with a youth sports league, asked what the proposed ordinance will do, compared to the one adopted after Nicole was injured.

Alderman Robin Minor, athletic director at Lewisburg Middle School, and Councilwoman Quinn Brandon, a practicing attorney with offices just off the Courthouse Square, both explained the changes will add requirements such as having only adults go into the street to receive donations. The ordinance amending the existing code would also prompt police to enforce what's already on the books, according to discussion Tuesday evening when the Council met in City Hall.

Baker acknowledged safety reasons for controls on so-called roadblocks to collect donations, but he told the Council, "It's kind of questionable to assign a motive to those who avoid the square."

At least one merchant and a councilwoman have reported that some motorists turn on to side streets to avoid solicitations on the square and Baker criticized such anecdotal information as insufficient for another law.

Furthermore, collection of nearly $900 by one group during a normal roadblock indicates that Marshall County residents are willing to donate, Baker said.

The idea of strengthening the code and making sure that its current provisions are enforced was brought to the Council by a merchant and a member of the Council, Mayor Barbara Woods said.

Minor reported residents told him that if money was being collected on the square, then they'd, for example, turn off Cornersville Road to avoid the square.

Baker countered: "If they have business on the square, they'd not avoid us to get there."

Only nationally recognized organizations should be soliciting donations on the square, according to one of the rules and the definition of what's nationally recognized became an issue.

Minor seconded Councilman Ron McRady's motion to approve the proposed changes to the solicitation regulations and the vote was unanimous. A third and final vote must be successful to enact the changes. That could happen on Aug. 11.

Regulations for soliciting donations on the square, according to discussion among council members last month, include: A time limit of five hours; No more than two road blocks per year per group; a permit from the Police Department; An adult with the permit during the solicitations; Only adults may enter the street to get donations; A tax free status must be held by the group for which donations are sought; Violators will be banned for at least a year.