Welcome to the Commissioners’ Corner. This will be a monthly column prepared by your County Commission and published, at no cost, by the local newspapers in the last edition of each month. This column will be used for informative purposes only and does not intend to stress any point of view. If you have a particular item you would like to discuss, please contact Peggy at the commission office at 562-9961.
This month we are going to discuss a department that has been very busy due to the recent weather. This is the Campbell County Highway Department operated by Road Superintendent, Dennis Potter. With the recent inclement weather conditions you have surely seen one the county dump trucks in your area. Even though the county commission’s only involvement with the highway department is establishing the budget, we are interested in the daily operations of how all our departments work. The more we know, the better educated decisions we can make. Recently, during one of the snow events, many of the commissioners received phone calls and were unexpectedly invited to ride along in their respective districts and see what the highway department drivers encounter and how they perform their jobs. Five of the commissioners were able to take the opportunity to learn. During the rides there were numerous discussions and a lot of new information was revealed that we may have otherwise never known. One driver said, “Some people wonder why I am driving around with rock in the back when there are hills or curves that need them.” The county dump trucks are not four-wheel drives, they don’t have chains, and the small amount of rock keeps enough weight in the truck to keep it going so they can scrape the roads. Also, there is a large covered shed at the county quarry that holds a large amount of dry gravel. With all the recent snow and ice the dry supply dropped low and the weather did not permit quarrying of more gravel. The supply did not run out but did get low. During this time the highway department received calls asking, “Why don’t you scrape the roads while they are melting?” With additional inclement weather on its way, the department was reluctant to scrape the existing gravel from the road, as there was not enough supply readily available to put down after the next snow (which was just hours away). Therefore, if the roads were scraped and we received additional snow then the roads could have been more treacherous.
We placed a call to Mr. Potter to get his input. He stressed that if the roads are covered with a wet, slushy snow they always try to scrape before considering the gravel. However, t he weather we have received thus far this year has been icy and frozen and the plows wouldn’t work. Therefore, we have had to rely on the gravel so people can get traction and be as safe as possible. As soon as the weather clears, we try to go back and move the gravel to the shoulder, which protects the shoulder. That way we are not wasting gravel. We don’t have salt in our budget, but prefer to scrape and use gravel as the salt really damages the roads and would add to our budget. Just look at I-75. Under hard economic times we have managed to survive by cutting costs via nine positions, not filling three additional vacant positions and absorbing the workload. We strictly manage the funds set aside for bridge repairs and are working to repair the needed ones. Overall, we need to do more paving but it’s just not in the budget. With rising health care, fuel costs, etc. we do good to meet those demands. If fuel costs increases as they are predicting we will need help. We have 33 employees including myself and we have a large territory to maintain with this few employees. We do the very best we can and are always looking for better ways to operate and cut costs.
If you would like to speak to Mr. Potter or his staff please call 423-562-3404.
As your commissioners, we are aware of the conditions of the roads that we all travel on. During the upcoming budget process we will be keeping this in mind. Of course, as many of you know, it currently costs $70,000 per mile for paving and we have a lot of miles in the county. Therefore, we need a significant amount of money to make a dent in the road paving. We will be looking, but feel free to attend the meetings and give us your input.
We hope you find this column to be informative. We are asking each of you that voted us in to please come and join us. We need your help. If you have a concern, bring it, along with a couple of possible solutions. We are eager to help but cannot do it alone.
The workshops are the second Monday of the month and the meetings are the third Monday in the courtroom on the main level of the Jacksboro courthouse at 6 p.m. Please come!