Garbage trucks trashing county roads?

By Jason Ferguson


The posted weight limits on Sidney Park Road aren’t changing anytime soon, but the weight limit on some of the trucks traveling it will or could be subject to a fine.

At its Nov. 22 meeting the Custer County Commission voted to leave the posted weight limit on Sidney Park Road at six tons per axle year-round, much to the chagrin of some area contractors and, to a lesser extent, commissioner Mark Hartman. The issue first came up at the commission’s Nov. 9 meeting when it was questioned why the weight limits are still up when they are typically posted only during the spring or wet summers when the road is most vulnerable. At that Nov. 7 meeting, county highway superintendent Gary Woodford said it was for protection of the road, which he said was not chipped sealed as planned this year and is beginning to break apart.

Woodford wasn’t at the Nov. 22 meeting, but county highway department foreman Leon Cordell told the commission it is his, Woodford’s and South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program engineer Cliff Reuer’s opinion the limits should be left year-round. It’s possible the limits could be lifted next spring after the road receives its chip seal, Cordell said.

Cordell said the road already has wheel tracks in it from heavy loads, including on the matted part of the road from Custer to the Hazelrodt Cutoff. Those divots allow water to pool and get into the road, which can cause further damage, he said, particularly from heavier traffic. The seal planned for the spring will help keep that moisture from going into the road.

The chip seal costs $433,000 every time it is done, Woodford said at the Nov. 9 meeting,  but the one scheduled for the spring will be funded through the state’s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), meaning the county will have to pay only 80 percent of the cost of the project. However, next spring will be the last year the county receives STIP money for the project, meaning the county will have to foot the entire bill if it plans to chip seal it after next spring. The seals have typically been done every three years.

Commission chairman Phil Lampert asked Cordell if it’s just a matter of time before the road has to be ground up and returned to gravel, which Cordell said he doesn’t want to happen on his watch.

“I can’t imagine what the phone would be like if we did that,” he said.

Hartman said he doesn’t believe the road gets damaged when the ground is frozen or it is dried out, but Cordell said the road still flexes each time a heavy load crosses it.

Hartman said he felt it was a double standard to allow garbage trucks—which those in attendance all agreed routinely are over the limit—to travel the roads, but not gravel trucks, logging trucks, etc. He also said he doesn’t like how some trucks are granted permission to be over the limit and some are not, but Cordell said he recalls only one time a truck was granted special permission.

Cordell said garbage trucks are not supposed to be over the limit, either, and are hard on roads—particularly on the shoulders of the road—as he said they run down the road over the limit routinely and drive up to garbage cans on the shoulders of the road at a high rate of speed.

One day when he was working at America Center Road, Cordell said he saw garbage trucks from five different companies go down the road.

Commissioner Travis Bies said garbage trucks should have to follow road weight limits like any other truck and should be checked to make sure they aren’t over the limit. If they are, he said, appropriate action should be taken.

“You’re going to tell the landowners they can’t have trash pickup?” Hartman asked.

Bies said that wasn’t the case, but rather, that the garbage trucks driving the road need to be under the six-ton limit.

Commissioner Jim Lintz said he is not an expert on roads and relies on the recommendations of Woodford as to how to best take care of the roads. Because of that, he made a motion to leave the posted limits. Bies and commissioner Oonagh Wood voted in favor of his motion, while Hartman voted against.

Hartman then asked if the county is going to enforce the limits and start fining trucks that are over the limit. The commission voted to send letters to garbage haulers, the Forest Service, etc., to inform them of the county’s plan to more strictly enforce the posted limits.

Violators of the weight limits are subject to fine. State statute sets the base fine at $170, with that price rising based on how much a truck is over the limit. For example, if a truck is found to be 4,500 pounds overweight, the fine is $170 plus a penalty of $0.225 for each pound over. In that case, the fine would be $170 for the inital fine, along with $1,012.50 (0.225 x 4,500) for a total fine of $1,182.50.

The commission also heard from county nurse Judy Bottjen at the meeting, who gave her annual report.

Bottjen said 2016 has been quieter than normal and that enrollees in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program are down statewide. She said the reason for that is being investigated, but it is believed part of the reason is that the allocation of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits have increased and those who qualify for SNAP benefits may choose them over WIC because SNAP is more loose with what foods and drink can be purchased. WIC requires healthy choices be made when purchasing food.

Bottjen said her office attended to 14 pregnant women this year, all of whom were given a risk assessment. Those who were high-risk were given more intense prenatal care education with the hope of getting them to live a healthier lifestyle. The county nurse’s office also does developmental screenings, has a registered dietician, gives out hygiene products, books, car seats and cribs for those who need them. Bottjen said 155 doses of routine vaccinations were given to children this year, as well.

In other news from the meeting, the commission:

• Heard from Linda Kramer, Hermosa Town Board president, who said the Town of Hermosa had been put on the state’s water facilities plan with the hope of receiving a grant from the state to bring more water to the town.

• Voted to close the county courthouse for half a day on Dec. 23. In addition, the courthouse will be closed the day after Christmas, Monday, Dec. 26.