No one willing to step up to run road department

Staff reporter

After more than 30 minutes of discussion Monday morning, Marion County Commission didn't get any further ahead regarding a public works director for the road and bridge department.

The commission had asked acting public works director John Summerville to invite interested personnel from the road and bridge department to the 8 a.m. work session to discuss options for a department head.

Tom Holub and Dennis Maggard accompanied Summerville to the meeting.

Summerville suggested more money be offered to attract a qualified person for the top position.

Commissioner Dan Holub said he thinks the main problem isn't how to fix a road problem but more of how to pay for it.

"I just assume keeping it in-house or locally but we need a manager," he said.

Holub said he wasn't sold on the idea of an engineer because it has become a specialized field and one size no longer fits all.

"If we did find an engineer, we wouldn't be able to afford it. Salina is offering $80,000 per year and hasn't had any hits," Holub said.

Summerville said he didn't want to see a manager-type, someone sitting in the office but someone to help when there's an issue.

Holub said he wasn't talking about a "bean counter."

"A bean counter screws up the whole system," he said. "We need someone in the field and who can operate a grader if needed. Two possibilities are sitting here (referring to Tom Holub and Dennis Maggard)."

Maggard said he was helping as much as possible, noting that Tom Holub was short a mechanic right now. Summerville said he had one applicant but he wasn't qualified for the job.

"John definitely needs someone," he said.

"You guys have jobs to do and worry about today and tomorrow. We need a person to look ahead," commissioner Randy Dallke said.

Commissioner Holub said the real issue is money — there is none to buy materials or equipment.

"No one wants to lose a sealed road but that's your only option," Maggard said. Commissioner Holub agreed and said graveled roads were easier to repair than asphalt.

"I mentioned I wanted a professional person last week. It's got its drawbacks," Dallke said, "but we need to have a road plan five years in the future."

Rate of pay of road and bridge personnel may be a reason some of the positions haven't been filled. Summerville said it has been an issue in the past when potential applicants have inquired about the rate of pay of job openings and decide not to apply because it is too low.

Commissioner Holub said the benefits should be a draw for applicants but as far as the public works director position is concerned, it may be the "brutality of the position."

"Would it help to take the section guys off your back?" commissioner Holub asked Summerville.

"It would help tremendously but how are we going to do that?" Summerville asked. "We need a road-runner which is what I was hired to do."

Clerk Carol Maggard suggested promoting a section man to a supervisory position to oversee the other motorgrader operators because he would already be knowledgeable.

The response was the department already was short one motorgrader operator and not sure if another operator could be hired.

Dennis Maggard and Tom Holub agreed that some of the road and bridge employees have second jobs as they do which is one of the reasons neither of them are interested in the supervisory position.

At the end of the discussion, the consensus was that much of the department problems are based on money — pay for employees and funds for roads.

Summerville told the commission that Norman Bowers was willing to talk with the commission at 8 a.m. Monday in the commission room.