Residents pack board room for public forum regarding weight limits on gravel roads
A total of 26 people, consisting of both farmers and members of agri-businesses, came to the board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday to provide input and get answers on the gravel road embargo proposed by County Engineer Bill Belzer.
“I’m happy to see everybody here. This is what we need — public input,” said Supervisor Chairman Marc Lindeen.
Those present at the meeting were mostly concerned with the permit process and how their businesses would be impacted by the embargo.
“We’re not trying to discourage business, we want to make it work better,” said County Engineer Bill Belzer.
While Belzer agreed that the embargo would be an inconvenience to businesses, he said his goal was to come up with a workable system to help maintain roads and save the county money due to maintenance costs.
“I feel I would be at fault if I didn’t offer an alternative to raising taxes and throwing rock at it,” said Belzer.
A major concern was the permits required to travel on the county’s gravel roads if the embargo is enacted.
Permits would be required for companies working for hire with vehicles over a 15-ton gross vehicle weight. Individual farmers using farm-owned equipment would not require a permit.
“This is the state code — we have to follow that,” explained Lindeen.
However, it was mentioned that the exemption for individual farmers does not mean that the farmers are not affected by the embargo, as the farmers also use the roads and are affected by damage caused to the roads.
Belzer did not have specific information on the permits, which some in the audience expressed disappointment at as they came to this meeting searching for detailed information.
Belzer did say that the permit situation will vary. Businesses would need separate permits for each route to and from their business and possibly for each vehicle used.
He’s hoping to provide a permit that will last for a period of time, but it would likely be a short time as the situation could change if a road starts to become too damaged. Therefore, permits may be issued on a more short-term basis.
To receive a permit, a company would fax a completed request form to the engineer’s office. Belzer would review the request and either approve or deny the request and fax the form back to the business. Turnover on permits was estimated to take less than half an hour.
However, when asked if there would be somebody working extra hours during the day or on weekends to be waiting by the fax machine for permit requests, Belzer responded that he was not planning on having any overtime.
For more on this story, see the Feb. 16 issue of the Mt. Pleasant News.