Supervisors one step closer to approving improper use of county roads ordinance

Washington County Supervisors approved the second of three readings of an ordinance that would inflict harsher punishments on those who damage county roadways.

The ordinance was first introduced at the Tuesday, Jan. 29, Board of Supervisors meeting where Washington County Engineer Jacob Thorius explained that dirt roads were becoming excessively muddy after rainfall due to people mud-running, or driving through at high speeds, and causing damage.

He explained this ordinance is not to be used as a penalty to farmers who need to access the roads but to reduce the amount of intentional damage. At the Tuesday, Feb. 5, meeting, Supervisor Abe Miller said he spoke with farmers in the area who were supportive but earlier that morning with one who was concerned about “being policed.” After Miller explained the goal is to reduce intentional damage and if the roads are cleaned after use, there would be no problem, the issue was resolved.

Thorius agreed with his explanation, further reiterating the ordinance is being discussed for damage control purposes.

The current policy gives the perpetrator a warning the first time, but Thorius wanted to see a stronger penalty in place. The new ordinance states that for any damage caused that requires repair in excess of $250, the perpetrator will be charged with a simple misdemeanor and a possible jail sentence ranging from zero to 30 days, a fine ranging from $65 up to a maximum of $625, or both, for each offense.

“We understand we’re in an agricultural community and there is going to be some mud tracked on the road, but at the same time there are steps that everybody can take to try and minimize that,” Thorius said.

Supervisors approved the second reading, with the third reading to take place at the next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12. If the third ordinance is approved, the ordinance will go into effect immediately upon publication as required by law.