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Electric cars approved in Janesville

Feb. 12--JANESVILLE -- Small cars powered by electricity soon might be transporting people and groceries around the city.

The Janesville City Council approved an ordinance Monday that allows "neighborhood electric vehicles" on most city streets.

The vote was 6-0. Amy Loasching was absent.

Bob Krohn, 2904 Timber Lane, spoke in favor of the ordinance. Krohn said safety concerns were overblown because NEVs are comparable in size to a Mini Cooper or a Honda Insight.

"I realize Janesville is a General Motors town, but this kind of niche vehicle is no threat to General Motors, I assure you," Krohn said.

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The Janesville ordinance restricts NEVs to streets where the speed limit is 35 mph or slower. The penalty for driving one on a prohibited street is $50 to $500.

Lucy Zweep of Ozee Cars, a Columbia ParCar dealer in Stoughton, said five or six such vehicles already are operating on Stoughton streets, including one belonging to the city.

Zweep said NEVs are improving, including the addition of a new "utility van."

Speakers lauded the electricity-powered cars' environmental friendliness because they lack emissions, but they didn't mention the fact that the electricity itself might be produced by power plants that pollute the air.

Janesville joins Appleton, Beloit, Eau Claire, Green Bay and La Crosse as cities that allow the NEVs, according to a city memo. Other cities--including Brookfield, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Manitowoc, Oshkosh, Racine, Sheboygan, Waukesha, Wausau, Wauwatosa and West Allis--do not allow them.

Council member Russ Steeber criticized the new state law that requires municipalities to approve their own NEV ordinances. He said the state should have legalized the vehicles on a statewide basis.

Steeber said residents of cities that abut suburbs could have problems because they can drive an NEV on their own city streets but only would have to cross a street into a neighboring municipality to become illegal.

What is an NEV?

-- neighborhood electric vehicle, as defined by state law:

-- Has four wheels.

-- Can achieve the speed of 20 mph and not more than 25 mph over the course of a mile on a paved, flat surface.

-- Must have headlights, front and rear turn signals, tail lights, brake lights, exterior and interior rear-view mirrors, a parking brake, a windshield, seat belts and a vehicle identification number.

-- Must be driven by someone possessing a state driver's license.

-- Must be licensed and follow the rules of the road like any other car.

Restrictions in Janesville

NEVs may not be driven within the city limits on:

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-- Interstate 90/39.

-- Highway 11.

-- Highway 51 north of Black Bridge Road.

-- Center Avenue south of Kellogg Avenue.

-- Highway 14/Humes Road.

-- Milton Avenue north of Kennedy Road and Randolph Road.

-- West Memorial Drive west of Timber Lane.

-- East Milwaukee Street east of Highway 14.

-- West Court Street west of Sunset Drive.

-- Afton Road south of Crosby Avenue.

-- North Washington Street northwest of Golf Course Road.

-- North Parker Drive/County F north of Black Bridge Road to Highway 51.

-- Beloit Avenue south of Burbank Avenue.

-- South Wright Road south of Highway 11/East Racine Street.

-- Ruger Avenue east of Wright Road.

-- John Paul Road.

-- East Racine Street east of Palmer Drive.

-- Newville Road north of Edgeview Drive.

-- Mineral Point Road west of a point 600 feet east of Willow Springs Court.

-- West Rockport Road west of the Rockport Park entrance.

-- East Rotamer Road east of Wright Road.

-- Approved changes in the Downtown Renovation Loan Program to allow improvement loans of up to $5,000 and to expand the program to all the downtown Tax Incremental Financing districts. The program had been limited to TIF 24 and to projects costing $2,500 to $12,500. No one ever applied for a loan.

-- Approved shifting of funds in the 2007 budget to cover overspending for snowplowing of $796,577 and $69,187 in the public safety budget caused by fire-department overtime.

-- Denied an injury claim for $240,500 from Jason Stenulson, 3905 Mackinac Drive, Janesville. Stenulson claims he is due compensation from the city for injuries he suffered in an accident involving his car and a city bus on Oct. 1, 2007. The city's insurance company determined the city was not negligent in the accident.

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-- Approved City Manager Steve Sheiffer's appointments to the Community Development Authority board, George Fenn of 100 S. Franklin St. and Michael Bachmeyer of 425 Madison St.

Council candidate K. Andreah Briarmoon asked the council to appoint her to the board, citing her interest and background in the Old Fourth Ward and her desire to channel the federal funding controlled by the board to affordable housing and a new community center. The council did not mention her request as they discussed the appointments.

-- Heard from council President George Brunner, who said a discussion of the search process for a new city manager would be on the council's agenda Feb. 25. Brunner asked his fellow council members to consider what "skill sets" they would like in a new city manager.

-- Heard council candidate Bill McCoy complain about damage and disuse of the third floor of the Janesville Senior Center.