County Road Patrol ordinance faces opposition

Published 11:33 am Monday, November 6, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County’s proposal to draft an amendment to an ordinance creating a road patrol enforcement officer is facing opposition from the Mississippi Loggers Association. Supervisors have discussed amending an ordinance to crack down on heavy hauling and weight limit violations. 

Lincoln County resident David Livingston, a representative of the Mississippi Loggers Association, spoke to the board of supervisors Monday about the road patrol ordinance. He said his biggest concern is the ordinance will hurt the most critical sector of industry in Lincoln County. 

Five wood facilities are operational in Lincoln County and they are 100 percent dependent on truck delivery of lumber. For example, Rex Lumber needs about 100 truckloads a day to stay productive. 

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Lincoln County has 18 chicken farms, 104 chicken houses and 47 qualified loggers in the county. Agriculture and timber are the two biggest industries in Mississippi and roads are the lifeblood of both. 

“You can’t shut the trucks down. If you restrict access on roads then you restrict businesses. Anything that is done if the board has the right and authority I understand but it needs to be well thought out and well worded,” Livingston said. “Twenty-five years down the road someone else could read the ordinance differently. That is when our problems start. We want to work with you on what we can do to have continued access to roads.” 

Livingston explained the loggers association and mills have a system of checks and balances to corral outlaw hauling of timber. Loggers have to abide by guidelines or the mills will cease to work with them. He told the board he wants them to enforce what they have. Malta’s amendment to the road ordinance creating a county road patrol officer would enforce the laws on the books. 

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey said he spoke with four different loggers before proceeding on drafting a road patrol ordinance and none had any objection. Lincoln County Board Attorney Greg Malta said they are using the Copiah County road patrol ordinance as a template. 

One of the reasons the county is drafting a road patrol ordinance is to limit heavy haul traffic on non-state aid roads to prolong the life of the roadways. Weight limits are posted around the county but there is no way to enforce it. The county is wanting to make sure trucks stick to the routes they are permitted to use. 

“Over on Fern Lane we have a sign saying no thru trucks. There is a truck loaded with logs that came through there the other day. He laughed and said ‘You caught me,’” Falvey said. “They will go out of their way to not use the trucking routes. Most do a good job but a few do it their way. We don’t have time to babysit the loggers. We aren’t here to shut down the industry.” 

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing told the board numerous times over the past year he doesn’t have a way to enforce weight limits because the department does not have any scales. Lincoln County’s road patrol officer would work for the board of supervisors, not the sheriff’s department, Rushing clarified after the meeting. 

District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown said the county does everything it can to support the timber industry. Rex Lumber and other timber companies have received tax exemptions to help support them. 

A funding solution

One of the arguments Livingston made against the amendment which would allow the county to enforce the weight limit laws on roads was that truckers pay taxes and have every right to use all of the county roads. Brown countered with the fact small cars and trucks in the county pay $3 million in car tags while trucks and trailers pay $36,048.06 in tag fees.

Livingston brought up the fact roads need to have a solid base regardless of what is enforced because they will deteriorate. While Mississippi provides funding for roads through the Local System Road Program, counties have to replace all posted bridges in the Local System Bridges Program. 

County Engineer Ryan Holmes said some counties don’t have near the number of bridges Lincoln County does. State aid roads need more funding as well. Brown encouraged the Loggers Association to lobby for more funding. He can foresee the closure of the US98 bridge in Franklin County causing problems in Lincoln County too. 

“If you could lobby for more funding it would be a great start,” Brown said. “They closed the 98 bridge today. The truckers will be hunting little roads to cut through on.”

No action was taken on the matter in Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.