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Bertie supports request

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Commissioners took a stand with farmers during their May 21 meeting.

After hearing from farmer Wood Farless and getting a legal okay from County Attorney Lloyd Smith, the board unanimously approved a resolution allowing farm equipment on controlled access highways.

“I’m here representing Farm Bureau and all farmers in Bertie County and the state of North Carolina,” Farless told the board.

He said Senate Bill 1965 (Session Law 2008-211) had allowed the width of farm equipment on North Carolina roads to increase from 18 to 25 feet. He said the law, however, restricted admission to fully controlled access highways.

Farless said the restrictions were hurting farmers because it kept Bertie County farmers from crossing the Chowan River bridge to reach farmland in the neighboring county. He said it also denied access to farmers who had equipment in Windsor and needed to reach Hardentown.

“I think it is a lot safer to move down a limited access highway,” Farless said, referencing the U.S. 17 bypass. “There are two lanes and the roads are wide, which makes it much easier for traffic to get around.

“We feel like by moving down these corridors we will be safer for the citizens of Bertie County,” he added.

Farless said he and others had been in near accidents driving correctly on back roads in the county and that he felt the limited access roads were actually better to move equipment because farmers could be seen much easier.

Farless told the board Farm Bureau was working with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles and the N.C. Department of Transportation to rewrite the legislation. He said as a concession the new legislation would likely lower the width limit from 25 to 21 feet.

Similar resolutions have been passed, he said, by commissioners in Chowan and Wilson counties. Other counties are considering the resolution, he said.

The commissioners expressed their support for the resolution, but said they wanted it to be reviewed by Smith. Later in the meeting, Smith said he had taken time to review the document during a recess and believed it met all legal requirements.

The resolution asks the North Carolina General Assembly to “allow over width farm equipment to be safely driven on fully controlled access highways.”

Following Smith’s okay, Commission Vice Chairman J. Wallace Perry made a motion to adopt the resolution and Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. offered a second. The motion passed on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Rick Harrell not present.

In other business, the board:

  • approved an appropriation for the Criminal Justice Partnership Program to provide a substance abuse program for the remainder of the fiscal year;
  • gave authorization to have a door installed at the warehouse for use by Emergency Management;
  • appointed Joseph Leggett to the Voluntary Agriculture District Board;
  • agreed to appoint Laura Early, Mitch Cooper, James Bell, Thomas Asbell, Donna Mizelle, Cheryl Mizelle and Linda Speller to the Bertie County Child Fatality Prevention Team; and
  • approved the JCPC funding allocation.