Plan for fewer restrictions on ATVs advances

Supervisors debate ordinance allowing 4-wheelers on county roads

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Webster County Board of Supervisors meets in the Webster County Courthouse, center, on Tuesdays.

Changes to a county ordinance about how ATVs can operate on the county roads advanced on Tuesday.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors approved the first of three readings on the ordinance on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Bob Thode voting against it.

A current Webster County ordinance says that ATVs can run on county roads, but must take the shortest route, Supervisor Keith Dencklau said.

The proposed change would allow them to operate on any county road, paved or gravel, without that limitation.

“We’re just changing the ordinance to allow off-road vehicles on the highways, on any county-maintained road,” Dencklau said.

Thode said based on feedback he’s received, he would want some tweaks to the law before he would support it.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who are against it, but are open-minded to some of it,” Thode said. “One person specifically stated he was for it as long as they have plates on the vehicles.”

That person was against it when he learned the plates wouldn’t be required, Thode added.

“With that being said, my personal opinion is unless they exclude the two state parks and they have license plates on these vehicles I will not vote for this ordinance,” he said.

The current ordinance requires ATVs that operate on county roads to receive a plastic license plate for $10 from the county recorder’s office, Sheriff Jim Stubbs said. Operators then put the numbers on there from the Iowa Department of Transportation registration already on file.

Supervisor Merrill Leffler said, “As far as license plates are concerned, my personal opinion is they’re kind of redundant. They have to be licensed with the state anyway, and I don’t think there’s really a benefit or need for the license plates.”

“And there are stickers with the numbers on them on the vehicle. They have to have the DOT sticker with the numbers on it, and they have to be visible,” Dencklau said.

“The purpose of the plates in 2011 was visibility,” Stubbs said. “It wasn’t about the ordinance, or about money, it was because if somebody went somewhere they aren’t supposed to it is easier to see than looking at a little sticker.”

Dencklau said he wanted to change the ordinance now and add protections later if it caused problems in Dolliver Memorial State Park or Brushy Creek State Recreation Area.

“If we have trouble we can exclude them,” he said. “We did this five years ago on gravel roads and we had no complaints. You can say we’re going to have trouble, but until you try something …”

“I agree with Keith. I think we open it up and don’t presume there is a problem until there is,” Leffler said.

Stubbs said that, technically, people have been able to ride in the two parks since the old ordinance was enacted in 2011, but they don’t.

“There’s nobody going through them, so I don’t foresee a big problem with them,” he said.

A letter in favor of the ordinance was received from Matt Cooper, with about two pages of signatures from those in favor, County Auditor Doreen Pliner said.

“As the past president of the Webster County Wheelers Association, I feel this would be a great benefit for Webster County and the city of Fort Dodge,” Cooper’s letter stated.

This ordinance would not apply to dirt bikes, Leffler said. The text refers to machines with from three to six wheels.

A second reading of the ordinance will be held on Feb. 27, and the third will be March 6.

The supervisors also approved plans for a road resurfacing project and four bridge replacements, which will be let on March 27.

An asphalt project will be done on the road just outside Fort Dodge to the southeast, along a roughly two-mile stretch of 210th Street, Paragon Avenue and Mill Road. There are currently two bridges being replaced on this stretch, which should be finished by late spring.

The bridges all have low weight postings:

• On Itaska Avenue more than a mile north of 115th Street, an eight-ton bridge;

• On 380th Street about half a mile east of Lainson Avenue, a 15-ton bridge;

• On Kansas Avenue north of 390th Street, a 10-ton bridge;

• On 220th Street east of Baxter Avenue, a 10-ton bridge.

“These are the ones that need to be replaced as soon as possible,” Webster County Engineer Randy Will said, “because they restrict access and somewhat landlock people.”