With plans to move forward with more than $4 million in street repairs later this year, the Robstown City Council approved changes to an existing ordinance Monday that will limit the areas in which large trucks can drive or park in the city.
According to the ordinance, trucks weighing more than five tons will be required to remain on designated "truck routes" within the city, and violators could be subject to fines of up to $500.
The approval of the ordinance followed months of discussions and meetings between a Truck Route Ordinance Review Committee and local truck drivers.
On Saturday, more than 20 truck drivers met with members of the committee in the Robstown City Council Chambers to discuss the proposed changes.
The biggest concern brought by the ordinance, drivers said, was that it has the effect of preventing drivers from parking their trucks in residential areas that are not on the designated truck routes. Most drivers said they preferred to park their trucks in front of their homes, to prevent what was described as widespread theft and vandalism.
"Robstown is a trucking community. It always has been," driver Alfredo Martinez said. "I think you're just here to tell us to 'get your trucks out,' and we're done."
Diane Rubio said she felt the city was pushing truck companies out of the community.
"In the 1980s we got out, because this same thing happened to us," Rubio said. "We got outside the city limits, and now you've followed us. Everywhere we go, the city follows us."
Alex Rubio agreed, and said forcing truck drivers away will eventually cost the city more than the repairs on the streets will.
"It's going to cost the city a whole lot more money when the truck drivers start registering their trucks in other counties."
On Monday, Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr. said he understood the truck drivers' concerns, and said the city was working toward a solution. One possible solution, Ramon said, was a joint venture between public entities and private businesses to build a secure truck parking area on the highway.
"We want the truckers to have an option," Ramon said. "It does us no good to charge you every week or every month a penalty if you've got nowhere to put your trucks."
Ramon said a request for proposals on a secure truck parking facility could be issued by the city within the next several weeks.
At least one member of the Truck Route Ordinance Review Committee, Dahlia Lopez, said she was unsympathetic with the truckers' parking issues and expressed disapproval with that plan.
"None of them took that into consideration. This is not our problem. This is not the City of Robstown's problem. This is their problem," Lopez said. "They bought trucks with no plan to park them."
Other city officials, however, said they hoped to work with the drivers to reach a compromise that would be beneficial to both the drivers and the city.
"It's going to take money, it's going to take time, and your patience," City Secretary Paula Wakefield said.
Enforcement of the ordinance that was approved Monday could begin within 30 days, officials said, but Robstown Police Chief Johnny Brown told those in the audience he would instruct his officers to work with the truck drivers as much as possible to avoid fines.
"We're trying to look at our needs and your needs and meet you halfway," Brown said. "We don't want to just go out there and hammer people with tickets."