Steel wheels return to face strict penalties

KIMT News 3 – Complaints are rolling in from local residents hoping more citations could keep steel wheels off county roads.

It’s been an issue that’s left a mark in Mitchell County in past years, and now the board of supervisors is once again talking about steel wheels on farm equipment damaging the roads.

“What you’ll see is crushed aggregate or edges broken off the roadways,” said Mitchell County Supervisor, Joel Voaklander.

The damage is nothing new for Voaklander who says he continues to field calls about the steel wheels on a regular basis.

“There is a section of road in Mitchell County where I’ve heard others say, you know exactly where you are because you’ll hear the rumble of the road,” said Voaklander.

In 2009, the Mitchell County supervisors adopted a road protection ordinance, which meant stiffer penalties for those using the steel wheels on the road.

What was once a $10 fine from the state, is now a $250 fine in Mitchell County for the first offense and $500 for the second.

“We thought if we got to go to all the trouble of creating our own ordinance, then we want teeth in it. So that it’s not just, I’ll pay the fine and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, it’s got to make a point,” said Voaklander.

We had the chance to speak to one area Mennonite who says they agree that some should be held accountable for the damage they cause, but only if it’s excessive.

For reasons of his religion, we decided to honor his request to not use his name or image for the story.

“If somebody is actually damaging the roads and doing serious damage to the roads, he should be fined and prosecuted. These light scars, I don’t call damage.”

Over the past four years, the Mennonite community of Mitchell County has challenged the ordinance claiming it is unconstitutional, by violating their religious traditions.

In 2010 the Iowa Supreme Court agreed. Now with revised wording in their ordinance, Mitchell County is once again taking up the issue.

In the meantime, the ordinance remains in effect.

Although that still goes against Mennonite traditions, which include keeping rubber wheels off of motor-operated vehicles.

“When this all started, we offered money in the fund that would be there for the damaged roads. Howard County accepted it, Mitchell County refused,” said the man.

“Everybody around here wants to be a good neighbor and they don’t want to point the finger at someone saying they are doing something bad, but it is what it is,” said Voaklander.

The Mitchell County Supervisor’s office says they’ve considered the fund, but realized now that the $25,000 offered would not be enough.

Major road projects in the county are usually estimated in the millions of dollars.

Sheriff Greg Beaver says citizens are asked to contact the sheriff’s office, if they spot any violators of the ordinance.

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