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Norwood business owner faces court challenge over truck limit

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NORWOOD — The debate over the controversial 8-ton weight limit on village streets is about to come to a head. Business owner G. Michael Knowlton has been summoned to appear in Potsdam Town Court for ignoring the limit, and he said he plans to fight the ordinance.

The village board reaffirmed the need for a weight limit in September, citing the poor condition of village roads and the potential damage that heavy trucks can cause.

Mr. Knowlton owns Knowlton & Son, a trucking business that primarily delivers salt during the winter. He has been deliberately ignoring the weight limit in hopes that he will be taken to court, where he hopes to prove the law is unfair.

Several business owners protested the weight limit when it was discussed in September, with Mr. Knowlton being among the most vocal.

The law forces him to take a 30-mile detour to reach Route 56, the one legal truck route running through the village.

“You’re talking dollars per ton more to do that, and for us to be competitive, there’s absolutely no way,” Mr. Knowlton said.

A study commissioned by the village said rebuilding the most-trafficked roads to meet state specifications for truck traffic would cost nearly $8 million, money the village doesn’t have. Local business owners who rely on using these streets argued that smaller-scale renovations could accomplish the task just as well.

Mr. Knowlton received calls from his neighbors Thursday morning informing him that there was a police car waiting down the street from his business. He drove down to ask the officer if he was waiting to issue a summons to truck drivers, and the officer said he was.

Mr. Knowlton asked that the summons be issued to him instead of to the drivers, who work for an Albany trucking company. He then loaded up a truck with enough salt to take him past the legal weight limit and drove to where an officer was waiting to issue the summons.

He pleaded innocent and will appear in Potsdam Town Court. A date has not yet been set.

“I think it’s time,” he said. “It needs to go in front of somebody else to get it out of (the village’s) hands, so somebody can make a logical decision about this.”

Mr. Knowlton said he believes the decision to reaffirm the limit, which existed for years but had not been enforced before 2012, was initiated by Mayor James H. McFaddin and was created specifically to target him.

“He and I don’t get along at all,” he said, citing “old time politics” as the reason for the dispute.

When the case goes before the court, the question will be whether municipal laws supersede state and federal regulations. Mr. Knowlton said it is the village’s duty to provide a way for trucks to access Route 56.

“We maintain that he’s not guilty of anything because the village doesn’t have the right, under the circumstances, to tell him he can’t do what he’s doing,” said Thomas C. Finnerty, of Canton, whom Mr. Knowlton hired as his lawyer several months ago.

“I took the case because I think he has a good, solid case for his legal argument,” Mr. Finnerty said.

Mr. McFaddin declined to comment on the situation, directing all questions to Norwood Police Chief James J. Harris.

Mr. Harris could not be reached for comment Monday.

While he is waiting to appear in court, Mr. Knowlton said, his business will continue to run as normally as possible. He will use village streets when he can, and the 30-mile detour when he has to.

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