CROWN POINT — Truck drivers are being warned to slim down their loads or get ticketed for pulverizing Lake County's rural roads.

The Lake County Council unanimously passed, on first reading, an ordinance to revise the enforcement of weight restrictions to make it easier for police to stop overweight trucks using rural roads to avoid major highways where state police have more resources to catch them.

Councilmen Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said the county has been spending millions of dollars repaving county roads only to see them ruined this way.

Dozens of county roads, including those around quarries in south county, have weight limits ranging from 5 to 15 tons.

Bilski said they aren't changing the weight limits posted, but are giving police the option of stopping suspect vehicles without having to use expensive road scales to prove the trucks are overweight.

Bilski said trucks are required by state law to report their maximum weight capacity to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles which posts that capacity on the truck's license plate.

Bilski said if the officer sees a truck with a 10-ton weight rating on a road with a 5-ton limit, that can be used as evidence to ticket the trucker.

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Bilski said this is a simpler alternative to the county buying road scales, which can cost $35,000 apiece, and training officers how to use them.

The council will cast a second vote on the ordinance as early as July 10 and set a date for the new enforcement procedure to begin.

The council also voted 4-2 to reinstate a hiring freeze on other county elected officials.

The council previously required a one-month delay in filling county government job vacancies on the argument it saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid salaries. Last year, the board of commissioners vetoed the hiring freeze — after two years in place — saying it didn't save money and created unnecessary paperwork for elected officials who want a free hand in hiring authority.

Strong requested the council enact a new hiring freeze that reduces the delay to two weeks and exempts court and public safety jobs from the freeze. "It is a test ordinance to see if there are savings," Strong said.

The council would have to muster a majority of five votes if the commissioners veto this new ordinance.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.