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A young girl waves an American flag as motorcyclists ride past during the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run in Marseilles last year. Legislation in Springfield might allow host cities to certify volunteers to direct traffic during such events, potentially easing the need for local police to assist with traffic control.
The next time Freedom Ride passes through La Salle County, you might see a volunteer in biker garb directing traffic. If so, stop when he tells you to stop and go when he tells you to go. The Illinois General Assembly is mulling over whether to allowing cities to certify volunteers to assist police with traffic during events such as the Freedom Ride. Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives quietly passed House Bill 1539, 107-5, with state Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) voting yes. If approved in the Senate, the measure would allow local police to certify individuals to direct traffic during processions and assemblies. One motorcycle advocacy group favors the legislation and expressed satisfaction that it passed the House. Dan Kleckner, spokesman for Starved Rock ABATE (A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education), said volunteer traffic directors might keep cyclists from having to pay hefty fees for traffic control. A one-hour ride within Springfield’s city limits costs $2,500, he said, and cyclists are eager to defray such costly services with volunteerism. “It would help to where they wouldn’t have to pay on that end,” Kleckner said. “And it’s something we want because it’d help when we have events locally.” Kleckner said he’d be watching the bill’s progress in the Senate, where a vote is pending. One local police chief said he’d welcome the chance to recruit some help. “I’d like to see a program where we could train some people to direct traffic,” said Utica police chief Mark Wren. “I’d be able to use it to some extent. “It seems as if (we have a parade) every other week, but I think we’re about 20 a year.” One issue likely to be discussed is liability — an issue that concerns one local chief. Marseilles police chief Jim Hovious said he was by no means opposed to the measure, calling volunteerism “a positive move in the right direction.” But Hovious said any potential savings to Marseilles in terms of manpower and resources would be minimal. First, the traffic-control portion of Freedom Ride takes up just two hours; most of the day is spent in crowd control and security for visiting dignitaries. Second, Marseilles police are assisted by state police and La Salle County sheriff’s deputies, making it harder to pinpoint the city’s cash outlays and potential savings. “I don’t really see it as a money-saving thing for me,” Hovious said. “But at the same time, it does give them some sense of ownership. It’s their event; we’re just hosts. And there are people who are very trustworthy.” Yet Hovious said he had questions about how volunteers would be certified and what kind of liability his city would incur. “If I’m going to certify people to work with me, then I want to know their background and character,” Hovious said. “Where is the liability on our end if they overreach their powers or they get interested? Where does their authority begin and end. “I think there needs to be a lot more explanation for this.”