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Supervisors Approve Temporary Embargo

By Staff | Mar 6, 2008

With an eye toward the spring thaw and memories of considerable expenditures for road repairs a year ago, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to enact a resolution allowing for a temporary embargo and weight restriction on four roads in the county. The move came following a discussion with County Engineer Joel Fantz during the board’s weekly meeting on March 4.

“I have to open by apologizing, because I probably should have brought this to you about a month ago,” Fantz said. “I’m asking you to consider a resolution to put some temporary embargoes or weight restrictions on some roads in the county.”

According to Fantz, the embargoes would last three weeks or less, but would not exceed 90 days.

“The difficult thing here is to strike a balance between necessary commerce and not doing severe damage to the roads when the spring thaw comes in,” Fantz explained.

According to the engineer, the state of Minnesota uses embargoes on roads during the spring thaw, usually five ton limits, and the embargoes can last for a couple of months to protect their roads from damage.

Under the provisions of the resolution, loads would be restricted to a six ton axle limit, meaning that the gross weight of the load can equal the number of axles on the vehicle multiplied by six. Additionally, the Engineer could issue permits of exemption in case of severe economic hardship being caused by the restriction in an emergency situation.

The restrictions would be enacted by the placement of signs designating the restriction, and would be rescinded when the signs are removed from the affected roadways.

Fantz noted that he had worked with Supervisors Ed Noonan and Ron Graettinger at length on the embargoes, due to the fact that the roads involved were primarily in their districts. The roads specifically targeted for the temporary embargoes are County Road N48, or North Huron Street, on the east edge of Emmetsburg, from 320 Street to 360 Street; County Road N60, or the Depew pavement, from 280 Street to 525 Avenue (Highway 18); County Road N28 from Ayrshire north to Highway 18 and county Road B53, from Ayrshire east to Highway Four.

“We’re trying to target the worst period for the roads, when they are at their weakest,” Fantz explained. “With all of the frost heaves this winter, we know there is a lot of moisture under these roads and when thaw starts, it could lead to real problems.

Last year, the thaw, coupled with considerable traffic loads, forced the county to make considerable repairs to a portion of county road B53 running east out of Ayrshire.

“Have you spoken with the people at POET?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.

Fantz noted he had done so, and that POET was actually having producers bring grain in early to try and help alleviate potential problems.

Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked when the embargoes would actually go into effect.

Fantz noted that it would be dependant on when the thaw actually started, but that by resolution, the embargo could take place when signage was posted on the targeted roadways.

“The intent of this action is to give us a tool out there for the short term,” Fantz said. “We would send a letter to inform truckers who utilize the roads a great deal to let them know about the temporary embargo. Ayrshire is going to be hit the hardest but after last year, I think they are very cognizant of what we’re trying to do through this.”

Fantz continued, “For this to be effective, we need to have the cooperation of the truckers. Three weeks is not really long enough for an embargo, but we hope to hit the worst time of year with it.”

“Joel’s right,” Wirtz noted. “The people need to be made aware of this as soon as possible.”

“Can we think about this a week?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad. “It just seems like everything has to be acted on right away.”

“Really, we can’t,” Fantz answered, “and again, I apologize for not bringing this up sooner, but we really need to act on this today.”

Graettinger moved to introduce and approve the resolution and Wirtz offered a second to the motion. On a roll call vote, the resolution was passed unanimously, with Supervisor Ed Noonan absent and not voting.

“Even though Ed couldn’t be her today, we had talked about this and he was in favor of this, too,” Wirtz noted.

“Embargoes are very sensitive subjects,” Fantz said. “I fully understand how difficult a decision this is for you.”