Supervisors approve second reading of new ordinance
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 09/10/2012 3:10 PM
OSAGE, Iowa —The Mitchell County Supervisors approved the second reading of Ordinance 46, "Steel or Metal Wheel Ordinance," at last week's meeting. The third and final reading of the ordinance is likely to occur this week.
County Auditor Lowell Tesch said he received a call from Daniel Zimmerman of Orchard, who said he is against the proposed ordinance.
Supervisor Stan Walk said Zimmerman also contacted him to say he had concerns the supervisors were going through motions that "basically the Iowa DOT would not try to enforce."
"Dan said he'd try to get me more information before next week's meeting, and if he does, I'll try to make appropriate contacts," Stan Walk said.
"I have been in contact with the DOT and their attorneys, and they say they will be up here and will enforce the state law and will be at all the hearings and will bring their experts up to testify," said county attorney Mark Walk. "This (Ordinance 46) mirrors state code exactly, and they (DOT officials) say they're concerned about some of the language in the Supreme Court opinion that someone may challenge studs on tires and run whenever they want to. They want to be part of this. So if he's told you the DOT has said they'll not enforce, that's not what Des Moines is saying."
Dena Gray-Fisher, director of the office of public affairs at the Iowa Department of Transportation, said in a phone interview that she spoke with key staff that she thinks would have some involvement if there were a conversation about department helping Mitchell County if there were a challenge to its steel wheel ordinance.
"To the best of my knowledge, that conversation is not occurring and the DOT is not involved in any related litigation," Gray-Fisher said.
She said that the department's role is to enforce laws regulating commercial motor vehicles, not implements of husbandry. She said it isn't the department's role to get involved in defending Mitchell County's steel wheel ordinance.
The role of government should be to find a way to accommodate the movement of (Mennonite) farmers' tractors that is safe and causes the least damage (to the road), Gray-Fisher said.
The Iowa attorney general would defend the Iowa Code, Gray-Fisher said.
"But we're not asking the Iowa attorney general to defend us," said Gray-Fisher.
Proposed Ordinance 46 follows the wording of Iowa Code 321.442, except that the fines are larger. The state fine is $10. Mitchell County's fines would increase from $250 in Ordinance 44 to $500 in Ordinance 46 for the first offense, from $500 to $750 for the second and from $750 to $1,000 for the third.
On Feb. 3 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Mitchell County's road protection ordinance violated the constitutional rights of Old Order Groffdale Conference Mennonites. The justices said that Mennonites are forbidden from driving tractors unless they are equipped with steel wheels, and the county's road protection ordinance forbids steel wheel vehicles on hard-surface roads.
At that time county attorney Mark Walk said the supervisors amended their ordinance in August 2010 to say a steel wheel tractor could drive on a hard-surface road as long as it didn't cause damage so it took care of the Supreme Court's concerns that the ordinance was too restrictive. Walk said Ordinance 44, which replaced the original Ordinance 41, mirrored Iowa Code and was less restrictive.