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Webster road weight limit enforcement raises fuel delivery companies’ ire

  • From left: Keith Barnard, George Neville and Doug Smith work to fix Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    From left: Keith Barnard, George Neville and Doug Smith work to fix Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Keith Barnard uses a front loader to spread gravel while fixing a patch of Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Keith Barnard uses a front loader to spread gravel while fixing a patch of Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Webster Road Agent Emmett Bean, left, and Keith Barnard discuss what they should do next while fixing Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Webster Road Agent Emmett Bean, left, and Keith Barnard discuss what they should do next while fixing Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Keith Barnard, George Neville and Doug Smith work to fix Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Keith Barnard uses a front loader to spread gravel while fixing a patch of Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Webster Road Agent Emmett Bean, left, and Keith Barnard discuss what they should do next while fixing Gerrish Road near its split off of Tyler road in Webster on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Water had run under the road creating a dangerous pothole and a layer of soft road under what appeared to be a normal road.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

The bright-orange signs have begun to dot the New Hampshire landscape: Load Limit. Every spring, their emergence marks the start of mud season. And this year, it arrives after an unusually harsh winter that left roads scarred with frost heaves and residents needing to heat their homes well into the spring.

That has led to a policy shift, and some tension, in Webster. There, in an effort to save taxpayers money, the town decided to enforce the posted roadway weight limits. That change is frustrating a few fuel delivery companies, some of which have received fines starting at $250.

Trucks over the 6-ton limit must obtain a daily permit from the Webster road agent before using the town’s posted roads. Emergency vehicles and town trucks are exempt. Without obtaining town permission, drivers risk a $750 ticket for a third offense.

“I understand the frustration also, I really do, but this is not new . . . it has always been in place, but I am not sure if it has ever really been enforced,” said selectmen Chairman Roy Fanjoy. “Would you want to be paying extra for taxes to maintain the roads, if there is some way we could possibly cut back some of the damage?”

In Webster, more than 90 percent of the town roads are posted, and it’s meant to prevent road deterioration during the mud season when temperatures rise and frost melts, said Road Agent Emmett Bean. “We’re not doing anything to be mean . . . we are just trying to take care of what we have,” he said. Bean issues the permits at 4 p.m. for the following day. The permissions usually allow trucks to travel the roads from sunup until 9 or 11 a.m., depending on the weather conditions. “It seems to be working,” he said.

But some of the fuel companies disagree and said they weren’t aware the change was taking place.

“They have taken it upon themselves to act differently than all the other towns in New Hampshire, which allow you to deliver fuel because obviously people need to stay warm,” said John Rymes, vice president of Rymes Propane & Oil, based out of Warner. He said the short time window permitted in the morning makes it hard to service all of the company’s customers in town. The business received a $250 ticket in March, which it plans to challenge in court.

“If every town were to go rogue like that and decide they knew when people needed to get their fuel better than we do,” he said, “we would have tickets in every town, every hour of every day during this season.”

Under New Hampshire law, oil trucks and vehicles carrying milk products are exempt from the posted weight restrictions on state-maintained roads, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton. Cities and towns, however, are not bound by that law and have control over the local thoroughfares.

Since the signs went up in Webster about March 19, Bean said he has issued about 30 permits, the majority of which have gone to oil and propane delivery trucks.

H. R. Clough, a home heating delivery service, received its first ticket from Webster on March 27. It was 8:15 a.m., 24 degrees and it served as the Contoocook-based company’s notification that the town was requiring permits and upping enforcement, said General Manager Donna Arsenault. “What I found, I guess concerning, is the town did not notify any companies that have the need to deliver fuel or propane,” she said.

Fanjoy said the police department made calls before the posting went up. The department couldn’t be reached for this story.

After H.R. Clough received the ticket, Arsenault and a colleague attended a public town meeting on the road postings and worked out which of the company’s roughly 200 Webster-based customers need to be refilled, and when, so they could file for permits accordingly. “As a company, you have to respect what they’re doing,” Arsenault said. “I think we have done well.”

Huckleberry Propane & Oil has yet to receive a ticket. “We have been abiding by it since Day One they started it,” said the Boscawen-based company’s owner, David Huckins. “We haven’t had an issue or a problem at all,” he said, adding that a customer informed Huckleberry of the change and it’s the first year the company has had to receive a waiver.

“They have to think of taxpayers’ money,” Huckins said. “Do they want to make us happy or make residents of town happy, where they don’t have to spend a fortune on fixing roads?”

Fifteen hundred feet of tar, 3 inches deep, 20 feet wide, can run about $50,000, Bean said.

It is unclear what the town spent yesterday, Fanjoy said, to patch up a part of Gerrish Road where a stream of water erupted from the middle of the road’s packed-dirt surface. “We’re just waiting for the salmon,” joked Fanjoy, while he took stock of the situation with Bean, a backhoe and a small crew.

Bean closed the posted road yesterday morning, after he learned of the problem. “We did someone a favor today by not letting them down the road,” he said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

There is more to this issue in Webster that the article presents. Yes, fuel delivery trucks are over limit but that has never been an issue before this year. I think the underlying issue is really COPART and their use of town roads by trucks getting to their site. Concord regularly has a cruiser siting over the town line to stop any truck from using Concord's roads year long. Our selectmen dropped the ball when they approved COPART a few years back. Now we are stuck with elevated truck use of what are essentially back roads and single lane bridges, and the damage they cause. So now to crack down and target COPART would be seen as unfair. As a result it is necessary to crack down across the board. Just another example of short sided acceptance of tax revenue while not factoring in the requisite costs those decisions bring. In fairness to COPART, they played by the rules or lack thereof, it's a little too late to go back and change them after this amount of time. BTW I live just off of the most affected road in Webster concerning COPART.

Are they weighing the trucks or just writing tickets and hoping for the best? "Well it looks heavy to me." isn't going to cut it before a judge. The timing of this is interesting. Had they done this before town meeting, the police budget would have been cut to zero, and the road agent hung out to dry when the residents figured out they could not have oil and propane delivered when needed without the companies going through this drill. Maybe the oil companies should enact a "Webster Surcharge."

The Oil and Propane trucks are over the load limit when they are empty. How does an action by the Selectboard mean that the road agent gets "hung out to dry". The permit system is fair for all trucks. My oil company filled my tank the week before the limit was put into place. The Oil companies can deliver but only when it won't damage the roads. Load limits are nothing new to NH and they are not going away. If you read what the reps from Clough and Huckleberry said the permit system is working and is fair to all.

Actually, the signs read: "Load Limit 6 tons." To me that means the weight of the load can not be over 6 tons and the truck can weigh what it weighs. It does not read "Gross Vehicle Weight 6 tons", which these days is a dually pickup.

I usually agree with you..in fact I always do...but you are way off on this one.

Sorry Crank, but you are wrong. You should read the ordinance and perhaps utilize available research options before making your standard sweeping misstatements and misguided past, present and future view of events. Load Limit refers to load on the road. Please visit the Town of Webster website.

Permits are required in many towns around the state. Septage haulers have to abide by the same postings....not always easy when scheduling tank service but it makes sense for the towns.

I wondered when this would happen. Oil and propane trucks are the heaviest trucks on the local roads. I think this is a common sense approach to a serious problem. It should be state law.

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