By Paige Nash
Carriers violating the set weight limits on parish roads and bridges is an ongoing issue, and Webster Parish Police Jury will spend millions of dollars repairing a road just to have it destroyed by commercial vehicles repeatedly traveling the road over the allowed weight limit to get on and off a location site.
Russell Craig, Department Head of the Bossier Parish Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU), visited the Webster Parish Police Jury (WPPJ) to answer questions from the Road Committee Tuesday, April 4.
In 2010 WPPJ adopted an ordinance that pertains to commercial vehicle enforcement and the provision of supplemental road and bridge use regulations. It also explains fines and penalties for violating this ordinance.
Even though the WPPJ has Ordinance 944 in place, the jury currently has no way to enforce it due to a lack of personnel, scales and a vehicle to carry them.
Craig has a solution to 2 of the 3 issues at hand. The Bossier Parish CVEU has an extra vehicle they are willing to donate to the WPPJ and a recommendation on an officer to put in it.
“All that’s left – your most expensive cost – will be the scales. They are about $6 grand a pop and you need 6,” said Craig. He also informed the jury that the Bossier Parish CVEU would calibrate the scales for them free of charge every 3 months.
If the WPPJ decides to put a permit system in place, once they obtain the vehicle and the scales, they are only left with hiring an officer to enforce this ordinance. With law enforcement in short supply currently, this may not be an easy task, but Craig has a solution for this, too. He recommended a Minden resident that is currently serving as a Louisiana State Police trooper. He explained that hiring someone already knowledgeable in this area of expertise would cut down on training tremendously.
“You are going to ride with one of us for three years before we turn you loose,” he said. “There is so much in the law to know. There are so many exemptions, and he is familiar with the penalties, enforcement and writing of the budget.”
Craig told the jury that Bossier Parish would supplement them with more officers, providing one or two men to assist if or when needed.
Juror Steve Ramsey said that Webster Parish is not experiencing enough violations currently that would require three officers.
“The oilfield traffic here is nothing like it is in Bossier Parish,” Ramsey said. “It is minute, but it is a problem.”
Craig explained that when the permit system is fully functional the jury should have twice as many permits as violators. Last year alone the Bossier Parish CVEU made $548,000 in permits and $248,000 in penalties.
“In the end its three things – public safety, level playing field and preservation of your infrastructure, he said.”
District Attorney Patrick Jackson brought up another point: if the jury decides to begin enforcing this ordinance and issuing citations, they may receive some push back from locals.
“The system takes time,” Jackson pointed out. “Word has to spread. Your local folk will finally come around, but they have been doing things for a long time, and you are going to find that some of them haven’t necessarily been playing by the rules. That will get caught in the system some and you will just have to deal with those issues as they come.”
The jury would form a committee to review violations written by the officer or officers on duty.
WPPJ President Jim Bonsall said, “It is going to fall on the jury, and it is going to be up to us to determine whether that guy pays for his ticket or not. It’s going to be your friends and family. It’s going to be hard if you do this.”
Juror Daniel Thomas agreed, but believes “they just need to toughen up.”
He said, “I don’t see how the jury can afford to keep not doing this. It’s got to be happening here because they know we have no legal means to write them a ticket.”
The jury will consider the information provided by Craig and continue discussions on this matter.