BY JOSH PRESLEY
Local haulers and members of the timber industry took the floor at the Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday to ask the board to reconsider its proposed heavy-hauling ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would require a $35,000 bond from each hauler doing business in Clay County. According to the ordinance, the bond does not apply to ordinary wear and tear to roads arising from regular traffic during the regular course of business. The ordinance is meant to protect secondary county roads from damage from the hauling of multiple heavy loads as a result of specific and limited duration contract jobs such as timber, dirt and gravel hauling.
Clay County Forestry Association Secretary Van Williams said putting a bond on hauling affects the timber owner, and is nothing but another tax. He said it’s the timber owner, not the logger, who pays the bill for these kinds of bonds.
“Clay County has 288 jobs and $3.2 million in tax revenue from the timber industry,” Williams said. “Any way you look at it, timber is a major industry in this county.”
He said if the hauling ordinance passes, logging companies will write Clay County off the map as a primary buying area. He said passing the ordinance would mean reassessing the county’s land to zero timber value.
Weyerhaeuser Company Procurement Manager Ben Knight said his job is to find areas that can supply the company with timber at a low cost. He said when Weyerhaeuser encounters a county that makes it cost prohibitive to operate in, it doesn’t operate there.
“It’s just cheaper for us to go somewhere else and buy that timber,” Knight said. “So, the landowners have spent years of their life growing what might be a college or retirement fund that is now essentially worthless because companies can’t afford to harvest.”
Mississippi Logger Association Director Cecil Johnson said he’s met with more than 15 counties in the last 20 years that have talked about implementing hauling bonds. He said in every case the cost of those bonds trickled back down to the landowners.
To subscribe to the E-edition, please click here .