OGDEN — Looking for ways to improve air quality led to an anti-idling discussion in a city council work session in April of 2019. City Council members revisited the possibility on Tuesday after receiving multiple requests from people in the community.
The Natural Resources and Sustainability Stewardship committee presented its findings in a work session last September, per a previous council inquiry.
The committee was not opposed to the idea of enacting an anti-idling ordinance; however, members did not find it to be a necessary measure.
Council members ultimately decided to send the report back to the committee for recommendations after concluding, once again, an anti-idling ordinance would be too difficult to enforce. Three years ago, the city met with then-Police Chief Randy Watt about enforcing such an ordinance.
Council member Bart Blair said there are many complicating factors with enforcing restrictions on idling, starting with where offenders may be cited.
According to a presentation by Ogden City policy analyst Ross Watkins, idling may only be enforced if it happens on public property or private property used for a public purpose such as a store parking lot or drive-thru.
While Mayor Mike Caldwell did not officially recognize Idle-Free Week in Ogden until February 2021, the event has been taking place for about eight years. According to Council member Richard Hyer, February is usually the coldest month with the worst air.
Inspired by the educational event, Hyer and former Council member Doug Stephens took up carpooling together to every city meeting up until Stephens’ retirement on Monday.
Hyer said the two started carpooling around the same time when the mayor started riding his bike to work. The event is meant to bring awareness to the environment and the harmful effects of exhaust fumes.
Signage reminding the public to be idle-free is posted at Ogden schools and on city property during Idle-Free Week.
Council members believe continuing the city’s educational stance on idling is best rather than trying to enforce a seemingly unenforceable ordinance.
“An ordinance is not going to bring people together in a positive way,” Hyer said.
There are nine cities in Utah with anti-idling ordinances, all of them having exceptions. According to Watkins, all cities with idling restrictions have exemptions for safety reasons.
Exemptions include, but are not limited to, congested traffic, emergency vehicles during an active emergency and when outside temperatures pose a health concern. In Salt Lake City, two minutes of idling is allowed if the outside temperature is either below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees.
In describing the complicated nature of citing someone for being in violation of an anti-idling ordinance, Blair said an individual would have to be defiant, ignoring many previous warnings.
There is, however, an Ogden City ordinance designating emissions of thick, black smoke from a stationary engine, train, incinerator, furnace or building — with the exception of residential chimneys — a public nuisance.
“I don’t know how that’s enforced or if it’s enforced,” Watkins said.