Unit system still on tap for Oct. 1

Published 1:28 am Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nothing has changed with county engineer Darren Capps’ plan to convert the operation and maintenance of the county’s road and bridge system to a “unit system.”

Capps said that road and bridge employees, as well as shop mechanics and those in the engineer’s office, would report to work in Andalusia on Oct. 1 under the new system.

By then, it will have taken about nine months to make the transition from a commissioner-controlled system to one under the leadership of the county engineer. Commis-sioners voted 3-2 in January in the hopes it could alleviate some of the economic stress and save approximately $250,000 annually by reducing the size of the road equipment fleet.

However, the sale of that road equipment was postponed due to a lagging economy and the need to use the equipment to repair damages sustained during heavy rains in March and April.

With less than four weeks left until the Oct. 1 deadline, county engineer Darren Capps said crews are still working to repair those damages.

”On Oct. 1, we will start the day under the unit system,” Capps said. “We had all hoped it would be sooner, but I feel better knowing we didn’t jump into it. Some wanted to, but I feel like I have a better plan to put into play.”

Capps said the county would be divided up into a northern division and a southern division, with three crews per division — two light maintenance crews and one heavy maintenance crew. There will be a countywide bridge crew, a sign crew, an herbicide crew, a patch crew and employees for the shop and the engineer’s office. There will also be one employee who operates a fuel truck.

”Think of (U.S. Hwy.) 84 as a rough dividing line,” he said. “The northern division will be made of employees from Districts 1, 2 and 4. The southern division will be made up of some of all the districts and the men in (district) 3, of course.”

Capps said employees have not been given their division assignments and that county yard shops in Red Level and Opp will be closed. The district 3 yard in Florala will remain open.

He said he “tried” to assign employees to the divisions closest to their home and each should know their respective assignment in “about two weeks.”

One thing is for certain, he said — motor grader operators will report to their graders, not to the Andalusia shop.

“That means directly to their grader not to the shop,” he said. “At 6:30 a.m., they’re on the grader and leave at 5 p.m. and go home. They know what they need to do. By doing that, there is no drive time and it means more time on the grader.”

Capps said the process would be accomplished without any new hires.

“The biggest thing people will have to get used to is when they have a complaint, they need to call the engineer’s office,” he said. “A work order will be made and given to the appropriate supervisor. He will then distribute it to the right crew.”

Capps said he plans to hold daily meetings with the two supervisors to plan work for the next day.

“After Oct. 1, there’s no more split,” he said. “We will all work together. It’s going to be an adjustment, but we have to make it work.”