Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 28, 2013

License & Weight program up for reinstatement

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — Cherokee County's inert License and Weight program comes up for both possible reinstatement and a subsequent funding budget amendment Monday, but commissioners have indicated they are divided as to how they will approach a decision. The issue was voted down by a  majority of commissioners in November.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Traylor — who put the matter on the agenda for Monday vote — said he hopes he can convince the other commissioners to approve it because a license and weight officer is really needed in the county right about now.

"What we as commissioners need to realize is that part of our job is to protect the citizens of our county — and that means keeping the roads protected as best we can," Traylor said Friday. "The recent rains inflicted more monetary damage to the roads in my precinct than it would have cost to employ a license and weight officer. That officer could simply have rerouted drivers and spared additional roadway damage."

County Judge Chris Davis is not a fan of the proposal. He said the last budget for the License and Weight Department was $70,548.  

"We have more than enough regulations restricting our businesses coming down from Washington," Judge Davis said. "I do not want to be a part of placing more restrictions on business and commerce through our county government."

When the issue was considered in November, Precinct 2 Commissioner Steven Norton was against the idea, saying he was concerned a county road officer handing out large amounts of tickets could drive away business crucial to the county. On Friday, Norton indicated he wished to comment on the issue but couldn't free himself from meetings in time to speak to a reporter before deadline.

Precinct 3 Cherokee County Commissioner Katherine W. Pinotti is for the measure. She said loggers and oil company vehicles constantly are causing damage to county roads. The court doesn't always know when that takes place, she said.

When the position was active before, the license and weight officer was charged with monitoring the abuse of county roads — in effect, tracking down, weighing and giving tickets to truckers exceeding weight limits.

"From my personal experience, the companies I have approached for assistance with repairing the damage have all been compliant and willing to assist in any capacity," Pinotti said. "The problem is knowing when the damage occurs, who did it, how much damage was their fault, and being in a position to take action. It is a tedious and very time-consuming process and not only do I not have the time to track down these companies, much of the damage could be avoided simply by providing a better route."

The position was dissolved for budget reasons last year. Without them, the responsibility of policing the roads falls to commissioners.

Earl Dominy was the first person to fill the L&W Officer position. He was constantly praised for his work stopping illegal dumping along Cherokee County roads and helping curtail local drug traffic through the area. He was even credited with assisting in the wrangling of loose livestock.

Dominy's replacement, former Jacksonville Police Officer Ricky Moore, also has  been hailed for his job performance. He has been photographed more than once corralling and handing out tickets to offenders.

But after Dominy resigned in 2006 to further his law enforcement career and Moore resigned in 2012 to become a county animal control officer, no replacement was selected. The program eventually was mothballed to save money.

"The Commissioners decided not to hire anyone right away, but to tweak the program, consider many potential replacement applications, and attempt to provide the services that Ricky did on our own to save money in a bad economy for as long as necessary," Pinotti said.

The Cherokee County Commissioners Court convenes for this meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in the county room of the County Courthouse.