Capps: Unit system savings unknown

Published 12:01 am Friday, September 17, 2010

There’s no way to determine the savings generated by the county’s move to the unit system, County Engineer Darren Capps said.

“It would be like comparing apples and oranges,” he said. “The system itself seems to be working rather well. The day-to-day operations are going smoothly. It’s that we have all this FEMA work going on, so when you start looking at dollar figures, there’s no way to capture it.”

Preliminary estimates predicted an annual savings of $250,000 in equipment payments alone by switching from a “district system” to a “unit system.” Under the district system, commissioners oversaw the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the county-maintained roadways; under the “unit system,” that responsibility falls to the county engineer. Commissioners voted on the switch in January 2009 and implemented it in October of 2009. Since then, the county has experienced at least two natural disasters in the form of floods that caused more than $10 million in damages.

Cost-saving measures such as implementing a shorter work week for road employees and reducing the amount of equipment in operation have not been realized.

“We’re trying to keep up with this FEMA work,” Capps said. “Our guys are working 10 extra hours a week, burning more fuel and using more materials to do it. From my estimates, we’ve got another three years of this kind of work, and that’s if nothing else hits us.”

Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the county is able to recoup 85 percent of the total cost of the damages. Funding has been slow; however, Capps said he expects additional FEMA funding to arrive locally sometime in October.