NEGAUNEE - The city of Negaunee will be stepping up its enforcement of a city ordinance banning the use of compression or "jake" brakes within the city limits.
The move comes after several residents complained at the December city council meeting that truck drivers on the city's designated truck route have largely been ignoring the braking ban.
Negaunee City Manager Jeff Thornton said he did research into the history of the truck route after the issue of jake braking was brought to his attention at the council's last meeting.
He said that after discussing the issue with people from the Marquette County Road Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation, as well as past and present city council members, eliminating the truck route through the city does not seem to be a viable option.
"In my opinion, the reinstatement of weight restrictions is not an option, so I have made a request of our police chief to obtain specialized training for our officers in regards to the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, in particular those regarding large commercial vehicles, and to enhance the enforcement of those codes in our city," he said.
Councilmen Michael Van Straten and Michael Haines concurred with Thornton, saying that the ordinance has been in effect for years and that enforcement is the key. Haines said that once the city begins to more aggressively enforce the ordinance, word will spread quickly among truck drivers that Negaunee is not a place to run your jake brakes.
Thornton said in the course of his research on the subject he discovered that Maas Street/Marquette County Road 492 used to be the truck route, but it was moved in the late 1990s to its current location after the city council was "bombarded" with complaints from residents living on Maas Street and Sunset and Woodland drives.
Thornton said the move was part of an informal agreement between the city, the Marquette County Road Commission and MDOT.
"In about 1999, Maas Street/County Road 492 and County Road 480 were a shambles," he said. "There was a gentlemen's agreement that if the city allowed for weight restrictions to be lifted for Rail, Division and Pioneer (streets), that the county road commission would fix up County Road 480 from M-35 to Healy Avenue, about 2.75 miles in total and about 1.5 miles in the city limits. In exchange, the city would be allowed to apply for small urban funding with the support of the road commission for Maas Street/County Road 492 within the city limits."
MDOT also pays the city to plow and remove snow along the truck route.
"If the city chooses to impose weight limits on city surface streets ... the county would no longer wish to be responsible for County Road 480 within the city limits," Thornton said, adding the county may no longer support the city's application for small urban funding monies.
However, Negaunee residents Kimme Peterson and Scott Gravedoni, who made the complaints at the December meeting, also addressed the council on Thursday, calling not only for stricter enforcement but for higher fines as well.
Peterson said that the vast majority of offenders are from companies located out of the area, and that when most local truckers come by you don't hear a the jake brakes.
"Let's ticket 'em," he said. "And 50 bucks is not a big enough fine. Second offender, make it $150. ... Just keep ratcheting it up."
Gravedoni said it's not just the people on the truck route that hear the braking.
"I think what we need to do is look at the ordinance and we need to change the ordinance and change the fine structure of the ordinance," he said. "When (the truckers) lose an hour worth of their time and another $250, let's bump up the ante a little bit and give them a ticket that's worthwhile - not a $75 ticket, they laugh at that."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.