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Commissioners unanimously pass mini-truck ordinance

Some Mower County residents are a step closer to taking mini-trucks out of the garage and back onto area roads.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance 4-0 on Tuesday to license and allow mini-trucks on county roads.

The county has to license mini-trucks because the state delegated licensing to counties and cities in 2008. Mini-trucks licensed before 2008 are grandfathered in under the old laws and will continue to be maintained through the state. However, mini-trucks purchased after that haven’t yet been licensed in cities and counties that don’t have an ordinance.

Now each city and county must pass an ordinance for mini-truck owners to be allowed to license and operate vehicles in town, which causes confusion.

“It’d be much better if the whole thing was covered by the state,” Commissioner David Hillier said.

A few in audience replied by saying “absolutely.”

“It’s a hole, and we’re trying to plug that hole,” County Attorney Kristen Nelsen responded.

Steve Hovda owns a mini-truck and is seeking a similar ordinance in Grand Meadow. He purchased a mini-truck but has had it parked in his garage for months because he hasn’t been able to license it.

With ordinances required in each city and county, there’s fear that each ordinance will be different and there will be little uniformity in the laws.

“I wish the state would have taken care of it,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said.

Along with concerns about consistency, the commissioners and Hovda expressed concern about extra costs caused by the new laws.

“What it’s costing every piece of government in the state is ridiculous,” Hovda said.

Hovda said there has been some communication between counties to try and get uniform laws.

Despite earlier talk of licensing the vehicle with a sticker, the mini-trucks will use a type of license plate similar to a traditional vehicle plate so the license is visible, said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. The county doesn’t license any other vehicles, she said.

Mini-trucks are built in Japan, where they’re licensed with restrictions and often used for driving in town. Most trucks are Suzuki models, also known as Kei Trucks, have 640 cc engine and can drive up to about 55 mph, said Hovda.

Part of the benefit of the mini-truck is saving money on gas because Hovda said the mini-truck gets about 45 miles to per gallon. He bought his mini-truck used, so it was an affordable way to keep from accumulating miles on his other vehicles.

Al Oehlke, a retired farmer from Grand Meadow, owns a mini-truck that he uses to drive around the area. He described it as a vehicle he puts a lot of miles on without going to far from home.

The ordinance is limited to mini-trucks and doesn’t apply to all terrain vehicles.

Under the new ordinance, the mini-trucks are allowed on township and county roads, but cities in the county need to pass separate ordinances.

Mini-trucks are not allowed on state highways like Interstate 90.

Hovda is waiting to bring a copy of the county ordinance to the Grand Meadow, and he said he’s looking forward to driving his mini-truck if an ordinance passes there.

Hovda said he’s seen many mini-trucks for sale in neighboring counties, largely because of confusion concerning the ordinances.