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Skateboarding rules vary widely across Washington County

Towns nix Sheriff's Dept. call for uniformity in regulations to ease enforcement

Towns nix Sheriff's Dept. call for uniformity in regulations to ease enforcement

June 12, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Officials from Washington County towns shot down a proposal Tuesday to implement a uniform skateboarding ordinance proposed by the Washington County Sheriff's Department as a way to simplify enforcement for deputies.

With different rules and penalties for skateboarding in each of Washington County's towns, deputies have difficulty responding to complaints and often are reluctant to attempt enforcement, Maj. Sam Billotti of the Washington County Sheriff's Department told town officials at a meeting Wednesday.

While all but one of the county's incorporated towns have an ordinance banning skateboarding in certain areas, the ordinances differ in scope and penalties.

In some towns, such as Funkstown and Smithsburg, skateboards are permitted on streets as long as they are used safely and in compliance with traffic laws. Other towns, like Williamsport, ban skateboards from most streets. Some towns have townwide regulations, while Boonsboro and Sharpsburg regulate skateboards only in a designated "downtown area." And some towns have special exemptions for young children under adult supervision.

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Many town ordinances also address bicycles, motorcycles and a variety of other "play vehicles," with wildly different combinations of what is allowed where.

Billotti said the result is a complex patchwork of rules that is practically impossible to keep straight for deputies who are responsible for the entire county.

Town officials at Wednesday's meeting sympathized with the department's predicament, but said they were not interested in replacing their ordinances with a uniform version.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the town enforces the ordinance primarily in response to specific problems and is not necessarily looking for additional enforcement.

"We have no place in Smithsburg for skateboarders, so that's an issue," Myers said. "We can't afford to put a skateboard park in; that's another issue."

Boonsboro Police Chief Jeff Hewett said his department has a similar philosophy.

"You don't want to be too proactive about it," he said. "You're reactive if someone complains about it."

Town officials suggested deputies be provided with copies of each town's ordinance to refer to when they respond to calls about repeat offenders.

Billotti said the department would do its best to assist the towns with their separate ordinances, but encouraged officials to reconsider his suggestion.

"It would be so much easier for deputies if, in fact, the ordinances read the same," he said.

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