Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Road Departments Merger Needs Guidance [Corrected 09/05/12] ; City, County Agencies Do Different Types of Roadwork

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Road Departments Merger Needs Guidance [Corrected 09/05/12] ; City, County Agencies Do Different Types of Roadwork

Article excerpt

If Vanderburgh County voters approve a merger of city and county governments Nov. 6, one of the largest city-county departmental consolidations would be the road and street departments - and with it would come some large questions. Each government's engineers' offices plus the county Highway Department and city Department of Transportation and Services - which already oversees six subdepartments - would be wrapped up into a single agency.

As if to demonstrate the scale of the proposed changes, the Plan of Reorganization adopted by city and county governing bodies last year describes consolidations within a consolidation.

"The City Engineer and County Engineer shall be combined into one office and there shall be one office of Engineer for the Combined Government. The office of Engineer and the County Highway Garage shall be combined into the (existing city) Division of Transportation Services, resulting in a Department of Transportation Services in the Combined Government."

What the plan lacks is any guidance beyond that.

Ed Hafer Jr., a member of the 12-member citizens committee that crafted a proposal for consolidation, said members ultimately decided it would be inappropriate for the details to be decided by unelected and thus unaccountable residents.

"We felt that those are decisions that are best left to the members of government that are elected directly by the people," Hafer said.

Mike Duckworth, the county's highway superintendent, said such decisions would have to be made with a sophisticated understanding of the various agencies' equipment, manpower and budgets so they could be effectively blended - plus an appreciation for the differences in city and county road terrain.

Duckworth, who also has served as head of city government's Division of Transportation Services, said the two agencies do "completely different" roadwork.

The city's street maintenance department has crews that do some sidewalk and minor concrete repair and patching of potholes. The city engineer's office contracts out capital improvements to streets and drainage systems and other infrastructure.

By contrast, the county highway department does most of the county's road resurfacing work using two pavers, with county engineers contracting out bridge replacement and culvert repair projects that highway crews cannot do. Among the larger projects that have been contracted out: design and construction of University Parkway and road widening on Green River Road.

City and county equipment needs are different, Duckworth said, because of the vast differences in city and county roadway.

Of the 540 miles of primarily long and winding county-maintained roadway, only about 20 are curbed streets. There's not much need for curb replacement in areas outside the city other than minor repairs in newer subdivisions. …

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