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Commissioners debate use of contractors for spraying roadways

Pike County Commissioners were split Monday on whether to contract vegetation spraying services or find a way to spray using county employees.

Charlie Harris, District 5, argued that the county repaired a spray truck last year and ought to be using part-time workers to spray.

“We have part-time workers and our truck is supposed to be equipped and ready to go this year,” Harris said. “Now that is taxpayer’s money we are spending and getting no result out of it.”

The commission voted last year to contract with Roadside Inc. for spraying services and also paid the company to fix the county’s spray truck. Russell Oliver, county engineer, said the truck cost about $13,000 to fix, but Harris argued that it was more expensive.

Russell Johnson, District 6, said it is cheaper and more effective to contract spraying for $14,000 a year than to have road department employees do the work.

“I think the thing we have to look at … is if we can have the two sprayings done for $7,000 each, we could not hire an employee and pay their benefits and maintain and operate a spray truck and keep it under $14,000 a year … It’s a huge savings if we can outsource this and not replace an employee by doing it.”

Harris said he agreed with Johnson, but he pointed out that the employees are already being paid, so no cost would be added to the budget. “If we’re going to continue to contract spraying out and continue to have part-time work, we need to get rid of some employees or stop hiring,” Harris said. “This is taxpayer’s money that we are wasting in this position … I’m not for contracting anything else out when we got employees and truck is supposed to be ready to spray.”

Johnson said the road department workforce is at the lowest point it has ever been and that new employees would have to be hired to handle spraying.

“We do have a shortage of employees,” Johnson said. “We’ve got projects we need to do on roads and bridges. We should save all of the rest of those salaries and benefits to do something other than spray.”

Johnson also pointed out the commission’s vote last year to contract with Roadside Inc. included a long-term plan to reduce the number of mowings per year from three to one, saving $88,000 a year in the process. The county also is planning to gradually reduce its fleet of tractors from seven to three.

The commission voted 4-2 in favor of contracting out the spraying services with Roadside Inc. for $14,000. Harris and Homer Wright, District 1, cast the dissenting votes.

In other business, the commission approved just over $5,000 in security improvements at the Pike County Courthouse that will include concrete barricades that will separate the facility from parking lot and roadway and a new backdoor that will require keycard access from both inside and outside to free up security personnel from having to guard the door.

The commission also approved a license transfer for Redeye’s Roadhouse.

Harry Sanders, county administrator, announced his retirement at the meeting after serving in the office for 16 years.

The county commission will meet again Monday, February 26 upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be followed by a business meeting at 6 p.m.