The Lake County Commission supported the efforts of County Highway Superintendent Nels Nelson to preserve county roads by using more easily enforceable road limits during the spring thaw.
On Tuesday, Nelson asked commissioners to amend the resolution which currently establishes weight limits to include speed limits for truck traffic on six roadways. He explained that because the Lake County Sheriff's Office does not have a scale, the weight limits are difficult to enforce, but officers could enforce a 40-mph speed limit.
He described the targeted roads as "some of the less fortunate" and indicated, "With the slower truck traffic, we can preserve them during the spring thaw."
Newly-elected commissioner Adam Leighton asked if reducing the speed for truck traffic would actually have any impact. Nelson responded with an analogy.
"If I stomped on your toe or slowly stepped on your toe, which would hurt more? The harder you hit it," he said, referring again to the road surface, "the more it breaks apart."
Nelson said that if some effort isn't taken to preserve those roads, "we'll be forced to do something drastic." He also noted that currently, much of the truck traffic exceeds the posted speed limit of 55 mph.
Shelli Gust, commission administrative officer, explained the procedure for making the change. She said the county currently has an ongoing resolution that establishes weight limits from Feb. 15 to April 30 when signs are up. This is announced in the newspaper and posted on the county's website.
"It can be extended by resolution," Gust indicated. She said the existing resolution can be amended or it can be repealed so that a new resolution can be adopted.
Leighton said the state had a law which has since been repealed that established speed limits on overweight vehicles.
"I get what you've expressed, but I don't know if speed affects it," he said, referring to road breakup.
Nelson responded that two adjoining counties, Kingsbury and Brookings, have both been utilizing speed limits in addition to weight limits during the spring thaw, and they have been pleased with the results. Their roads are not taking the pounding previously seen.
"I'm trying to think of ways to save our roads with the resources available," he said.
Commissioner Aaron Johnson noted that 40 mph is better than zero, suggesting that further breakup could make the roads impassable. The commission voted unanimously to move forward with a resolution to add a speed limit for truck traffic on six identified roadways.
The affected roadways are 463rd Avenue from SD-34 to 220th Street, 464th Avenue from SD-34 to 244th Street, 448th Avenue from US-81 to 241st Street, 462nd Avenue from SD-34 to 237th Street, 237th Street south to 461st Avenue, and 461st Avenue from 238th Street to the county line.
Nelson also reported on two snow-related issues. He said he has received complaints that highway crews are plugging driveways. He indicated they move snow to the right from the center line.
"If you happen to live where we're pushing the snow, your driveway is going to be plugged. I'm sorry," he said.
Commissioner Deb Reinicke observed that is also the way snow is moved in town.
Nelson also reported that some rural residents are moving snow into the public right-of-way which is not, by law, allowed. He said he has been sending letters with attached photographs to offenders and letting them know they could be fined, billed for the cost of repair work required as a result of their actions, or held legally responsible for any accidents which occur as a result of their actions.
"Even with the little bit of snow we've had, I can't believe the piles in our right-of-way," Nelson said.
"It also adds to drifting," Commission Chair Kelli Wollmann observed.
The commission also approved purchasing a warranty for the semi the Highway Department is purchasing. Nelson reported that is more cost-effective than paying for repairs.