Unit system switch begins

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

County road and bridge employees will begin the transition to the unit system today, county engineer Darren Capps said at Wednesday’s county commission meeting.

It has been nearly nine months since commissioners voted 3-2 to move to the unit system, which places the management and daily operations of the county’s road and bridge system under the leadership of the engineer rather than the commissioners.

“This is a new era for the county,” Commissioner David Ellis said. “This process is going to be trial and error for us and (Capps). I think right off the bat we’re going to see an improvement in our dirt roads.”

Ellis said global positioning systems (GPS) have been installed in each of the county’s seven road graders, allowing for a “full day’s work for a full day of pay,” since operators will now report directly to the work site each morning instead of to the Andalusia central yard. The GPS systems will also monitor work time, fuel usage and idling time for each grader.

“If we hadn’t closed the arena, cut out the Pt. A Park budget and gotten the FEMA money, our employees would be facing 30-hour work weeks,” he said. “Now, the time has come for commissioners to look into areas that will move the county forward.”

Under the unit system, the county will be divided into a northern section and a southern section, with U.S. Hwy. 84 as the dividing line. Each section will operate with two light maintenance crews responsible for day-to-day work orders, one heavy maintenance crew responsible for FEMA work and one bush hog crew. There are also countywide crews for bridges, patching and sign placement.

Residents are asked to contact the county engineer’s office with work order requests at 334-428-2620. Commissioners said they are in the process of obtaining a 1-800 number so residents can avoid long distance charges.

Shops in Red Level and Opp will be closed, used only to house equipment when necessary. The Florala county yard will remain open and southern section employees will be allowed to report to work there.

Each of the 52 employees will report to their new assignments beginning Mon., Oct. 5.

Commissioners said they would still spend their time “riding the roads” to “check on things.”

“Just now, I’m going to be riding with the division supervisor,” Ellis said.

Commissioners Bragg Carter, Harold Elmore and Carl Turman each said they would remain available to handle complaints.

Capps said he felt confident in his plan and stated he “tried to set up the best way to fit the county.”