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Supervisors Seek Public Input On Embargo Question

By Staff | Oct 9, 2008

An emergency proclamation out of the Governor’s office has the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in a bit of a quandary. The temporary waiver of weight limitation rules on roads in the state has the supervisors, considering an embargo on a section of County Road N48, or North Huron.

The issue was raised in Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors when County Engineer Joel Fantz addressed the issue, noting that Governor Chet Culver had issued an emergency proclamation for the fall harvest season, lifting Iowa’s 80,000 pound gross weight limits on roads for a period of 60 days, retroactive to Oct. 1.

“That kind of presents us with a dilemma,” Fantz told the board. “We embargoed that two-mile section of North Huron this past Spring, and that really helped the road.. If we wanted to put the embargo back on that section, the proclamation would not override it. So, we have a decision to make.”

According to Fantz, the spring embargo of the road was very beneficial, as it allowed the roadbed to firm up and prevented any significant additional damage to the roadway. While the southern portion of the roadway is actually under the jurisdiction of the City of Emmetsburg, the northern section, which becomes 480 Avenue, is under the county’s control.

“We understand that the producers have to be able to get their grain to market, and you can’t fight the governor on that,” Fantz said. “But we have to protect this road, too. There are other roads that could be embargoed, but it really wouldn’t do anything for them.”

Fantz cited the Depew pavement, N60, as one such road, along with the Ayrshire pavement, B-53, but since both are in the process for reconstruction, embargoes at this point would not serve any purpose.

“I know it’s an inconvenience to put a six ton embargo on those two miles,” Fantz said, “Farmers could run the road empty, but they’d have to use the bypass road we regarded this year to bring their grain to town. But, at a half-million dollars a mile to rebuild a road, there’s not much choice.”

“Would it help if we kept the weight limit at the 80,000 pounds?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“It would help some, but not much,” Fantz replied. “The big wagons still do the damage.”

“Would this be the only road to embargo?” asked Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

“Yes,” Fantz said. “As far as distance, it would add a mile and a half for hauling in to town for producers.”

“People aren’t going to like it very well, that’s for sure,” Wirtz observed, “But at a half-million a mile…”

Supervisor Ron Graettinger asked if lowering the speed limit on the road would help.

“Not really,” Fantz said. “The weight is what does the damage.”

Fantz suggested the board postpone any action for a week to give residents in the area a chance to weigh in on the issue.

“If we get this out in the paper, and ask the public for some input for next week, hopefully we can get some guidance from the folks who will be affected the most,” Fantz said.

The board tabled action until its Oct. 14 meeting.