August 4, 2007

Jasper Plans to go into Road Paving Business

On more than one occasion the Commissioners have talked about buying $500,000 of road paving equipment. The first time the subject was discussed those that spoke to the Commissioners, from a former commissioner to every day citizens, spoke against buying paving equipment and against doing the work “in-house.” TWG wonders why the BOC would proceed without asking for a cost analysis. It appears that the BOC wants to spend money on paving equipment so it “looks like something is being done” about our county roads.

What is needed is an independent cost estimate. This would determine how much paving a road would cost the county versus the cost to bid it out to someone that does that type of work. An outside contractor would have bonding. Bonding would make sure of performance, as well as correctly constructed, paved, and/or patched roads.

The BOC hired an engineer last month, but before he’s on board and able to analyze personnel and road needs and the entire road maintenance and/or paving process, the BOC is jumping the gun and is ready to accept bids on the following equipment:

1. One 2008 Bituminous Asphalt Distributor & Truck Chassis
2. One 2008 Hydrostatic Drive Self-propelled Chip Spreader
3. One 2008 Vibratory Asphalt Compactor

Bids were to be opened, Friday, August 3, and the Commissioners will vote on accepting the bids or not, Monday, August 6 at their 9AM meeting.

Larry Thurman, Public Works Director, informed the BOC at budget hearings that he had a full staff and could do the job of paving county roads. However, he had only asked for new equipment ($75,000 worth) to do the day to day jobs the PWD is trying to do. All the equipment the county has is worn out according to Thurman.

TWG questions the county's system for determining road maintenance—how it is done and when it is done? TWG also questions the expertise of those in charge. Examples:

Liberty Dr. - see pictures: http://www.taxdogs.com/liberty.htm
and http://www.taxdogs.com/roadstandards.htm
New pictures were taken recently and some parts of this road have been patched at least 3 times. The road is cracking where it hasn’t already been patched and sinking in places. Mr. Thurman recommended a year ago that this road be brought into the County road system for taxpayers to maintain. After comments and pictures from TWG and others that has not happened to date.

Hayes Rd. - see pictures: http://www.taxdogs.com/road042107.htm
TWG has found documents showing that in August 2002, the BOC voted to close Hayes Rd. Yet, recently, the PWD graded and graveled Hayes Rd. TWG asked for information through open records about the time, manpower, and materials that were used on this road that no one lives on. Mr. Thurman responded in writing that 3 loads of gravel were used on this 2.4 mile long road. Something is very wrong and unusual about that response. On this 2.4 mile long road, the entire length has a nice thickness of gravel supplied by the County taxpayers. According to others in the business of hauling and spreading gravel, 2.4 miles with the amount of gravel used on Hayes Rd. would have taken 15-20 loads of gravel. Could Mr. Thurman just be mistaken or is there a more serious problem here?

Potholes and Patching - see pictures: http://www.taxdogs.com/080407hfroad.htm
TWG has received complaints from residents that have had potholes “fixed.” Within 3 months the “fix” has washed out or worn away. The patching on county roads doesn’t hold up much better. These pictures of Hodges Farm Rd. is a prime example. The County continues to patch and patch and patch this road. If it can’t be patched right, what makes the BOC believe it can be paved correctly?

TWG urges the BOC not to accept bids and purchase paving equipment until the new engineer (at a cost of $500,000 over 4 years) has time to evaluate the system.

Wasting money and spending money before all the facts are gathered is a terrible policy that should be changed. Now is a good time to start.


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