Student-athletes traveling to Wapakoneta High School to lift weights or work out prior to the start of classes soon should have fewer worries about violating the city’s curfew ordinance.
An amendment to change the end of the curfew to 5 a.m. from 6 a.m. was introduced Monday during the Wapakoneta City Council meeting for councilors’ consideration.
Council President Steve Henderson proposed the time change after receiving numerous calls from parents of baseball and football players.
“I received calls from parents of baseball players and parents of members of the varsity football team because 90 percent of those kids are violating the curfew law when they leave for practice in the morning,” Henderson said, noting when classes start football players are to report for weightlifting at 5:30 a.m. at the school.
The council president said he also proposed the change to the ordinance so Police Chief Russ Hunlock and his police officers do not have to disregard a law.
“The police department needs to enforce the laws as written and we are the legislature so we just need to change the laws to reflect what we want enforced,” Henderson said. “We do not want these students reporting to practice or training to be in violation of the law.”
The law currently states youth under the age of 18 cannot be on the streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday unless going to or from a place of employment.
Henderson also said Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier, who chairs the Health and Safety Committee, intends to address another area of the ordinance which could be problematic.
“I was glad a committee meeting was called so Mr. Finkelmeier and his committee can tweak the rest of the ordinance since grandparents, siblings and school staff are in violation of the ordinance if they transport kids into the city after a late baseball game or football game during curfew hours because that they are not the legal guardian,” Henderson said, noting Finkelmeier called a Health and Safety Committee meeting for 4 p.m. Aug. 23.
Henderson said Junior ACME players transporting their teammates or grandparents transporting their grandchildren who play on the summer baseball team would have been in violation of the ordinance this summer after a tournament game because it ended after 11 p.m.
He also pointed out school staff, if they were transporting players to the school after an away game such as Defiance, would be in violation.
During the meeting, 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier inquired why the ordinance needed changed at all since officers should be directed to use their discretion.
“We thought a quick fix in response to these concerns was to adjust the curfew ordinance by an hour in the morning,” said Finkelmeier, who noted he still intends to review the guardianship clause. “The police department does not directly answer to us, the power that we have is to change the law.
“We are going to review the ordinance for probably more than a couple of weeks and thoughtfully decide whether any of it ought to be changed beyond the hours we are requesting here, but this seemed to be a very obvious change for what seems to be a somewhat contentious problem in the community.”
Earlier this year, five high school football players were cited for a curfew violation as they drove to school to lift at 5:30 a.m., according to a source.
Finkelmeier also answered Neumeier’s complaint about the law being changed twice in a short period of time by saying “the law is a living document” meant to be changed to reflect the times.
Neumeier also questioned Mayor Rodney Metz and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains why Hunlock and police officers did not use their discretion when issuing citations.
After the meeting, Metz offered his opinion.
“I would like to see discretion used in curfew enforcement,” Metz said. “I have tracked the curfew violations and I think legitimate problems as well as legitimate reasons for being out should be taken into consideration. I just think the officers should be able to use their discretion on the issue.”