Overweight vehicle charges on ‘fragile’ Kebler Pass Road upheld by county

Know your load before you hit the road

by Adam Broderick

County Road 12, a.k.a. Kebler Pass, is one of the most impacted roads in the county because it’s heavily used and fragile. Here’s one example of how sensitive the road is: Montrose Forest Products, LLC was fined last month for hauling excessive weight in logs over Kebler Pass. The current load limit is 85,000 pounds and the company has a signed contract with the county agreeing that any charges for overweight loads would be paid. But when 46 separate overweight load charges racked up over $2,350 in fines, Montrose Forest Products asked for a fine reduction.

Norm Birtcher, resource forester at Montrose Forest Products, met with the Board of County Commissioners in Gunnison this spring to request the fine be waived or reduced. Birtcher told the board that he understands how expensive it is to maintain the roads and how important County Road 12 is.

“It is very difficult when loading logs, versus other products, to get the weights entirely accurate,” he said. “The scales that we have on our trucks are only accurate to about 1 percent [of the maximum weight load], or 850 pounds on an 85,000-pound normal load. When loading on a slope, or when the ground conditions are soft, it is hard to get an accurate weight reading. However, we appreciate your consideration on this matter and we will pay any fines that are due upon your decision, and we’ll strive to do better this season.”

Commissioner Paula Swenson explained her concern that there is already a signed contract with the company for a specific weight limit. “We can’t start monkeying with a log here, a log there, a waiver here, a waiver there,” she said.

In a written response to Gunnison’s Public Works Department concerning the invoice with overweight load charges, Birtcher said the difference between a legal load and an overweight load is only one log.

Swenson addressed this statement in front of the board. “When in doubt, take a log off,” she said. “We’re really sorry, but it is what it is. Hopefully this year we can keep numbers closer.”

Commissioner Phil Chamberland added, “I kind of agree that when you start getting above 1000 pounds you’re talking more than one log.” Then he showed a bit of empathy for the logging company. “But I’d be okay with trying to work something to help them out a little.”

Gunnison County’s director of Public Works, Marlene Crosby, said she could not support waiving the fine, especially for more than 1,000 pounds over the weight limit. “I do think they should pay for the ones that are overweight,” she said.

“The fines will remain as they are,” Swenson said.

So, that’s that. Know your load before you hit the road. Montrose Forest Products will pay their fines. Avoid having to pay yours.

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