Cost-cutting ideas involve culverts, county vehicles

Staff Writer

Culverts and county vehicles were two prevalent topics of discussion at the recent board of supervisors cost-cutting work session, held on Wednesday, Oct. 20.
District two supervisor Billy Kirkpatrick pointed out that the issue of policies on culvert placement, and the related materials costs, needed to be reviewed by the board.
“It would make my job a whole lot easier if I had some parameters to go by,” said Kirkpatrick.
Sonny Clay, county road administrator, explained to the board, concerning policy, that the law states that preservation and maintenance of the road right-of-way should be provided, allowing for proper drainage of the roadways. He added that this maintenance and preservation varies by situation, but normally culverts are placed where there is a real need to have road access to a property.
The determination of real need is often the key, and setting guidelines for the supervisors to follow was discussed. The board showed concern for equal treatment for all county residents.
“We are obligated to do for everybody. What we do for one, we need to do for the others,” said Clay.
Board president and district one supervisor, Randle Gray, added, “We need to give a man good access to his property, if he’s paying taxes.” He noted that those requesting culverts should be asked when they will be needing one, to determine urgency of placement.
Clay stressed the importance of determining if the request is for convenience or necessity. He gave an example of a county resident requesting a culvert to gain access to property for a mobile home site. The property had not been cleared yet, and had other access to it. His recommendation was for the resident to begin clearing the site, and once progress was seen, then a culvert would be put in place.
“We can try to come up with some regulations. It would help me to have something to stand on. We could set some hard, firm rules,” added Kirkpatrick. “If I’m going to have to make judgement calls, I’d like to have some guidelines to go by.”
The board discussed various cost issues, including amount of fill dirt, culvert material type, and length of culverts used.
Clay said that the county usually installs 24 ft. culverts, and will go up to 30 ft. if the road will be travelled regularly by heavy vehicles, such as farm equipment and large trailers. The culvert size also often depends on the amount of right-of-way. He estimated the yearly cost to the county for culverts to be about $125,000.
Clay noted that with the county, not the general public, maintaining the culverts they have control over proper installation, which can prevent potential water back-up that will harm county roads.
Kirkpatrick agreed and added, “We can’t ever get out of the culvert business. It is very important that we have to control the [installation of] culverts.”
Gray noted, “We have made ourselves aware in this work session, and we can reevaluate these areas and explore possibilities.”
Clay agreed to contact other counties to learn more about possible culvert installation policies and guidelines.
The board members also talked about the appropriate use of county vehicles. A discussion entailing how many county trucks are necessary to be driven home, and who has legitimate use of these vehicles, was held.
Clay explained that the foremen drive trucks home, and some others take vehicles home because it is closer to drive straight to their work site each morning, and not have to go by the barn to pick up a vehicle.
He added that these trucks all leave with saws in them, allowing for quick response times on stormy nights when fallen limbs and downed trees are reported.
“How much value do you put in getting up a tree that is blocking the road in the middle of the night,” said Clay.
District five supervisor Sykes Lagrone added, “Somethings can’t wait four or five hours. We need to clean up, so traffic won’t be affected.”
Further evaluating the vehicle issue, Gray commented, “We could just lock them up in the shop to cut expenses, but then we won’t get any service out of them either.”
Wilchie Clay, district four supervisor, said, “We need to consider the rising cost of fuel.” He said that they should assess the need for the number of trucks versus the burden of fueling those extra trucks.
Sonny Clay told the board to inform him of any known misuse, such as personal use, of county vehicles, and he would research it and correct the problem.
Monroe county resident Carol Crawford asked the board to consider using their own personal vehicles and recording their mileage.
Gray responded that he would be glad to try that for a month, but he felt that it would be more costly. He explained that the job of being a supervisor requires many trips to many meetings each month.
“I don’t think we would be talking about saving that much, but I would be willing to try keeping up with my mileage,” said Kirkpatrick.
After taking the mileage idea into consideration, the board continued their meeting and discussed potential collision insurance for the volunteer fire trucks.
County attorney John Creekmore stated, “If we want to consider providing collision on these vehicles, we need to check into it further.”
Sonny Clay noted that most will probably want to insure a second pumper and the First Responder trucks. He reminded the board that liability insurance is already in place.
Chip Chism, district three supervisor, suggested that maybe collision insurance should be put on the newer trucks, considering their higher replacement value.
Creekmore requested that Clay get estimates on just insurance for the newer vehicles, and he agreed.
In other business, Ronnie Boozer, county chancery clerk, discussed with the board the appointment of Monroe county trustees for the Tombigbee Regional Library. Two trustees’, Jean Pinkley and Elizabeth Wamble, terms expired at the end of Sept. 2004.
After considering potential interested candidates, the board appointed Dee Allison and Don Baker to the open positions.
The next regularly scheduled board of supervisors meeting will be on Monday, November 1 at 10 a.m.