The portable scales purchased by the Ward County Sheriff's Department in April have not yet seen full-time use due to a shortage of manpower, says Sheriff Steve Kukowski.
Overload violations have historically been countered by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, but fines from violations there would send money to the state and not to the counties. Despite Ward County not being a major oil-producing county, its proximity to those counties and Minot's role as the largest city in the region has seen infrastructural impact from overloaded trucks without seeing much of a return on state money.
"We are considered an oil producing county," said Devra Smestad, Ward County Auditor and Treasurer, but said that state oil money is based on production levels and that Ward county is "nowhere near" the levels found in the Bakken counties.
"The wells we have up in the Kenmare area are so old and aren't producing as much as the other counties are," Smestad said. The county does receive a large share of one-time payouts of oil impact money, though the amount and the regularity depends largely in part on how the state words the purpose of the money. "We've been fortunate to receive that extra amount this year."
In an interview with The Minot Daily News in November, highway engineer Dana Larsen had said that five or six years ago road crews would spend two to three weeks patching the highways around the county for about $20,000. More recently, he said, increased use has had crews spending a third to half of their time working on the roads at a cost of $400,000 to $500,000.
The deputy assigned to the overload violation truck, Jamie Williams, still currently serves primarily as a court deputy and will continue to do so until the department can find a replacement for him there.
"It's a hump we can't seem to get over," Kukowski had said of their one-man department shortage at a county commissioner's meeting earlier this month. They had hired one employee but had lost another due to the employee falling and breaking his leg prior to that county meeting. Kukowski has said that they will have another deputy starting Jan. 3, but that will still leave them one man short.
"There's just so many job opportunities in the area" and not enough workers to fill them all, Kukowski said, explaining why the department is having trouble filling the position.
So far Williams has worked part-time but has gotten to work on the violations most days. The violations range widely in significance, with the lowest fine he has assessed being around $60 and the highest, so far, being $575 dollars, he says.
Ward County might be seeing a larger share of money assessed from fines in the upcoming legislative session, Kukowski said, because Gov. Jack Dalrymple had stated support for sending more of that money directly to the counties the violations affect.