By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
EDGEWATER - The city is tightening restrictions on local registered sex offenders.
In its Nov. 4 meeting, the City Council heard the first reading of an amendment that goes one step beyond the requirements of the state law concerning sexual predators and where they can live within the city limits.
The new amendment to city ordinances extends the distance registered sexual offenders can live to 2,500 feet from any locations primarily designated for use by children, are primarily used by children or are customary gathering places for children. The proposed amendment lists public or private schools, parks, child day care facilities, churches, designated school bus stops, playgrounds and other places where children regularly congregate.
Currently Edgewater does not have any restrictions on residences of registered sexual offenders other than what is required by state law. The state law prohibits them from residing within 1,000 feet of locations where children regularly gather.
"It seems to me that other communities already have something similar and that if we don't pass this or something like it, those people are going to go to the communities that don't have restrictions and I wouldn't want to see Edgewater in that circumstance," Councilman Gene Emter said.
City Manager Tracey T. Barlow informed the council that the education board requested they remove designated school bus stops from the list. He explained that each year the school board designates the school bus stops for that year. "If they have to plan out stops 2,500 feet from each registered offender's residence, it would just about cripple them," he said. "They are already having a very difficult time meeting the state's requirements of 1,000 feet." He suggested to the council that they take "designated school bus stops" off the list.
Mr. Barlow also stated the amendment would grandfather in those already residing within the city, of which there are 42.
"So this would only apply to those registered sexual offenders who are planning to move into the city?" asked Vice Mayor Michael Ignasiak.
"Those residing here already would not have to move," Mr. Barlow said.
He also said it would apply to renters and homeowners and at one of their future meetings they would have to amend the code concerning the penalties to homeowners that violate the policy and knowingly rent their home to a registered sex offender that is within the prohibited area.
According to city agenda item documents, "The city hopes that by including the additional regulations relating to sexual predators and sexual offenders, it will reduce the potential risk of harm to the community by limiting the opportunity for sexual predators and sexual offenders to come in contact with unsuspecting children in locations that are primarily designed for use by children."
During the meeting, Councilman Ignasiak opened the floor for public comment, but no one stood to speak for or against the proposed amendment. The council then passed the first reading with a motion that removed designated school bus stops from the proposed amendment. The second reading of the motion is scheduled for their regular Dec. 2 meeting.
In other business, Heritage Middle School teacher Lisa Bynum, along with FFA and Ag students, presented a bulletproof vest donated by Diamondback Tactical of North Carolina to K-9 officer, Karma. "It is our hope that the ballistic vest will keep Karma safe while he is keeping the citizens of Edgewater safe as well," said FFA student Chloe Burke, President of the FFA Chapter at Heritage Middle School. The FFA and Ag students helped raise money to cover some of the cost of the vest.
Karma, a young German shepherd dog, still undergoing police training, accepted the vest exuberantly, thinking it was a wonderful new chew toy at first.
The city council also presented this year's Trunk or Treat Awards to three local businesses that participated in the annual Halloween tradition. The first place award, given to businesses that gave out candy and decorated for the fall festival, went to Indian River Elementary School PTA. second place was awarded to Edgewater Towing and Recovery, with third going to the Edgewater Rotary Club.