Posted on

Highway department changes underway

Highway department changes underway
Highway department changes underway
(click for larger version)

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday evening had a special meeting to hire three highway department foremen, one for each district, as part of the new efficiency plan introduced by Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel and highway department superintendent Glen Bube and approved by the three commissioners.
Previously, the county had a total of seven foremen. Those not selected to be foremen will move to a vehicle operator position.
The newly hired foremen are Richard Sloan, District 1; Allen Hitner, District 2; and Steve Miller, District 3.
‘All will be under six-month probation-type conditions,’ Bube said.
Each foreman will meet with the commissioners in executive session in an upcoming meeting.
The plan will place all drivers and operators under one foreman per district.
The commissioners also gave Bube the authority to re-organize the department as he sees fit ‘to be as efficient as he possibly can,’ Commissioner George Ethridge said, such as moving a crew member or two from one district to another.
The department changes came about because, first and foremost, the motor-vehicle highway fund spending has exceeded its revenue for many years and will likely drain all of its savings by next year or 2015 if it continues at the current rate.
The fund spent $397,580 more than revenue in 2008, $203,929 more in 2009, $377,757 additional in 2010 and $365,853 more last year. The lone year of reprieve was when the council moved a few expenditures to riverboat funds.
The fund never finished the year in the red because money from the savings fund was used to shore up the shortfall, but the savings account now totals a little more than $900,000, when, in 2007, it had $2.6 million.
‘There’s not a singular issue that has caused it; it’s more of a operating issue,’ Russel said back in May during a meeting. ‘There’s no way to address it without getting into personnel, salaries, health insurance.’
The potential remedy to the problem is attrition by not replacing two vacant employee positions and three others who are potentially retiring or moving on in the near future.
The department will also begin implementing a vegetation management plan to help rid the county of Johnson grass and change the pavement management plan philosophy from the ‘worst first’ approach to resurfacing and improving county roads, to the opposite, by improving the roads in good condition to help them stay in good shape longer.
‘The cost to maintain our paved roads solely with a resurfacing program is unsustainable and would not be the most efficient use of county funds if it were sustainable,’ Russel said.
The department also has started a trial run with credit cards for gas with the hope of eventually removing the county tanks from the department property.
The department has been busy lately, Bube said, with ditch and debris cleaning and clearing following the heavy rain last week. A large hole opened on North Road that had to be temporarily filled as well, because of the rain, he said.
The commissioners will continue, at its next meeting, to discuss and study the plan to flip the highway department property with the Harrison County Solid Waste property to help ease space and function issues at the current highway department site.
The board’s next meeting will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.

Twitter: @rossschulz