A proposal to reduce weight limits on some county roads was met with opposition.

 

 

A proposal to reduce weight limits on some county roads was met with opposition from the timber industry last week during a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.

The meeting was initially set for second public hearings on ordinances pertaining to medical marijuana and coastal land clearing, but by far the most discussion focused on a proposal to lower vehicle weight limits in two north county roads.

Both Jarrot Daniels Road and Luke Ford in Wewahitchka were showing signs of significant damage, Commissioner Ward McDaniel said, adding that the state had recently paid millions to pave Jarrot Daniels.

The final phase of Jarrot Daniels Road, completed late last year, cost over $3.1 million.

McDaniel said the wear was clearly coming from loaded timber trucks and proposed to the board a recommendation to place signage limiting vehicle weight to 16 tons on both roads.

The state, he continued, was not going to be funding to repave roads it had just paved, and the work that was recently done was being undone by the heavy, and concentrated level of, log trucks.

That weight limit, however, was characterized as “drastic” by Ted Whitfield who said he could think of no county in the region that imposed such limits to curb the travel of log trucks on major arteries.

Whitfield said log trucks are permitted up to 80,000-85,000 pounds, more than twice the weight limit McDaniel was proposing.

Whitfield told McDaniel that the two had conversed while the final phase of Jarrot Daniels Road paving was ongoing and McDaniel assured him log trucks would be able to travel the road.

The road, as well as Luke Ford Road, were paved to Florida Department of Transportation specifications for secondary roads, said county administrator Don Butler.

Butler added that to pave to the higher specifications of a road such as State 71 or U.S. 98 would have been prohibitively expensive.

But, he said, the roads were under siege to the number and weight of vehicles traveling the roads.

“If the county does not do something we are going to lose those roads and that money,” Butler said.

Whitfield suggested maybe the paving wasn’t the best idea from the outset.

“If you were going to pave it and not allow log trucks you should have just left it a dirt road,” Whitfield said. “I don’t think anybody understands the amount of money that comes back into this community from timber harvesting.”

Mike Lamonica with Deseret Timber and Cattle said Gulf County contains prime land for the timber industry and constraining it by limiting travel would be counter-productive, urging commissioners not to rush to judgment.

“Gulf County is a timber county no matter who owns the land,” Lamonica said while asking commissioners to solicit feedback from local timber industry stakeholders.

“Please don’t rush into a decision.”

Commissioner Jimmy Rogers said the issue was actually broader than just the two roads McDaniel was concerned about and commissioners should take the time to workshop and analyze the problem county-wide.

Butler was charged with speaking with industry stakeholders and to come back to the board with recommendations.

Medical marijuana

Commissioners held a second reading and adopted an ordinance that established, of April 12, a 180-day moratorium on all activity pertaining to medical marijuana.

The Florida Legislature is currently wrestling questions surrounding medical marijuana, which was approved by more than 7 in 10 voters last year.

The Florida Department of Health has been charged with providing rules and regulations by the third quarter of this year.

The county moratorium followed a similar moratorium by the city of Port St. Joe with local officials staying in place on the issue until the state provides rules and regulations.

Both prohibit the opening, relocation or expansion of any business pertaining to the cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana or derivatives.

County attorney Jeremy Novak said the county moratorium could be less than 180 days if the county moves ahead before that time period elapses.