Board eyes hauling permit law upgrade

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lincoln County supervisors are considering the creation of a newpermitting system designed to eliminate thru truck traffic oncounty roads.

Supervisors ended their Monday meeting with a long, chargeddiscussion on the potential system, which would likely require thehiring of a new sheriff’s deputy whose sole duties would bepatrolling county roads and issuing citations to trucks withoutpermits.

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak said the new system would addteeth to the enforcement of an existing permitting system and wouldtarget only out-of-county trucks shortcutting through on countyroads. Permits for traveling on county roads would only be issuedto local drivers and those doing business in the county, hesaid.

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“I don’t have any problem with the local people, I’m trying toreduce the thru traffic – loggers and heavy loads coming in fromWilkerson, Franklin or Amite County,” Moak said. “I’d rather seethem use the highways rather than our county roads. Obviously, wewouldn’t give them a permit unless they were working in ourcounty.”

Moak said he foresees the law enforcement position beginning asfull-time and possibly scaling back to part-time in the future. Hesaid a new county agency could be created, but the easiest solutionwould be to hire a new deputy, who would already have the authorityto stop vehicles and issue warnings and citations.

“They would be out patrolling the roads and they would have theauthority to pull over any loaded truck they saw and ask for apermit,” Moak said. “I would rather start out with some warningsand move on to citations later on.”

Supervisors agreed a new position within the sheriff’sdepartment would be needed for the permitting system, as officersshould not be pulled away from their duties to scout for trucks dayafter day. Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing estimated theposition would require $40,000 annually for payroll andbenefits

“Now, the way we work it is we try to check trucks as we seethem,” said Sheriff Steve Rushing. “I don’t have the manpower toput someone full-time checking permits.”

Supervisors’ discussion on the new system is still in its earlyphases, with much to be determined. The one certainty amongsupervisors is that a new system is needed and the old one is notbeing utilized.

A call to the Lincoln County Justice Court suggested the currentsystem is not being utilized. A spokeswoman indicated the court hasseen few, if any, permit citations.

“It’s to protect our county roads,” Moak said. “Even our StateAid roads, the older ones are only designed for around 57,000pounds. You can ride down almost any State Aid road in the mydistrict and see wheel ruts where traffic is cutting through. A lotof the time they’re using the county roads because they’reoverloaded in the first place.”

Supervisors President the Rev. Jerry Wilson said a heavy truckonce drove right through the middle of a reseal project in hisdistrict.

“You have to enforce the law,” he said. “Sometimes it ain’talways enforced. You try to go out there and talk to [truckers],but you never see them. The damage has been done, and you’re stuckwith the road and have to fix it.”

Wilson said he hopes the new permit enforcement position can befilled by a part-time employee, but admitted the large workload ofpatrolling the entire county would require a lot of time.

Creating a permit cop is a good idea to Vernell Qualls, a KatieTrail resident who has publicly voiced his community’s displeasurewith shortcutting trucks before. Katie Trail, a small, deterioratedroad close to Bogue Chitto, connects Highway 51 and Auburn Drive,and is often used by commercial trucks as a shortcut, he said.

“I can understand why they do it – because the law hasn’t beenenforced in the past,” Qualls said. “If new people are coming onboard to enforce the law, it would be helpful. As long as it wouldhelp anyone in the community, I’m in favor of it.”

Jerry Meador knows that some of the big trucks traveling backand forth in front of his home on Bogue Chitto Road are localwoodworkers, and he supports them. But out-of-county trucks shouldstick to the federal and state highways, he said.

“Our local folks have to make a living… this road’s as muchtheirs as it is mine,” Meador said. “But if someone is doing alittle cut through here, and they’re not paying taxes, then yeah,they ought to have a little enforcement.”