Oktibbeha County could add an additional crew and service territory to its current road maintenance system next fiscal year, a move that Road Manager Victor Collins says could provide timelier road grading operations and better resource management.
The road department currently operates three maintenance crews within Oktibbeha County’s five districts. Those crews, Collins told supervisors Monday, are swamped with work orders, including road grading, mowing and culvert maintenance, due to the county’s growth. His proposal would create a fourth crew by reducing each existing group’s personnel by one and with two additional hires.
Currently, three maintenance districts are responsible for 550 paved and gravel roads within Oktibbeha County. Individually, the three shops maintain about 180-185 miles of road each.
Collins’ proposed four-district system would reduce individual road crews’ workloads to about 141.5 miles, thereby solving inefficiencies created by traveling large maintenance territories, he said.
“Sometimes we can’t get to side roads for over a month if rains come,” he told supervisors Monday. “We’re trying to get to a reality where they can service these roads. You now have crews going from (one end of the county to the other in some districts). We’re sending them too far to work from their home base.”
Collins said he would attempt to service a new maintenance district with the county’s existing physical shops, but the crew would require equipment, including a motor grader, backhoe and dump truck. A used grader, he said, could cost at least $100,000. The county can manage a new work area with its current fleet of tractors and Bush Hogs, he said.
If supervisors approve Collins’ request, the county must then budget it for the upcoming fiscal year. Board President Orlando Trainer said the plan’s implementation would then occur in the spring, as winter weather prevents maintenance crews from running at full efficiency.
Besides equipment, the county must also provide salary and benefits for new employees and a likely foreman promotion.
County Administrator Emily Garrard did not have a projection for these and other costs associated with Collins’ plan.
Supervisors have fielded growing complaints about road quality in the county’s eastern portion, specifically within the growing Blackjack community. Trainer and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, who have continuously lobbied for increased road projects, represent the eastern portion of Oktibbeha County.
Trainer again mentioned the board’s need to pass a road improvement bond in passing at the table Monday, but supervisors took no action on the matter.
“The rationale is we have more work to do than we can handle. We’re getting so many complaints about how we cannot handle maintenance in a timeframe pleasing to our constituents,” he said. “The bottom line is our residents who live on gravel roads. They’ll call and say the grader hasn’t been out there in months. That (timeframe) might be a stretch, but well-traveled roads need to be graded once every seven to 10 days.
“We have a lot of territory that we’re trying to cover,” Trainer added. “The county is growing up so fast that we can’t keep up. It’s time we start trying to grow along with it.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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