Unit system switch on tap

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

County engineer Darren Capps has begun what he calls the “research phase” of the county’s recent decision to move the operation and maintenance of the road system to a unit system.

On Monday, the commission voted 3-2 to change to a centralized road system for the operation of county roads and bridges headed by the county engineer, also known as a unit system, from a district system. The move is expected to save $250,000 annually in equipment payments alone.

Capps spent Tuesday touring nearby Clarke County, who converted to a unit system in 1998. It is the first of many visits he has planned to “see how other people do it,” he said Wednesday.

“The best way to tackle this is to start by gathering information from the people who have already done this process — kind of like thinking we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel,” Capps said. “The more information we have, the better idea we have on how we should accomplish it.”

He said next on his list are visits to neighboring Coffee County and to conduct phone conversations with engineers in Escambia and “five or six more” counties in the state.

“The thing that we’re facing is that Covington County is unique and a little different than those other counties,” he said. “We’re number three in the state in dirt roads and second in the number of bridges.

“It’s going to take some time to get things in order, but I know we are up to the challenge,” he said.

While commissioners have not given him a specific time frame to complete the conversion, Capps said he is operating on an “as soon as I can get it done” timeline.

“I’m going to work on it everyday,” he said. “I still have my other duties to take care of too, but we’re going to get it done.”