Commission appoints acting county engineer; awards bids for first MBCF road projects

BLOUNT COUNTY COMMISSION

The Blount County Commission voted unanimously at its Monday business meeting to name Dustin Stewart acting county engineer, replacing former county engineer Winston Sitton, who resigned to take a job in another county. Stewart’s compensation was set at $79,433, plus benefits. The commission deferred action on advertising for a permanent replacement to fill the position until next month’s business meeting.

The commission also awarded bids for Moving Blount County Forward (MBCF) road projects. The bid for hot mix and shoulder treatment went to Whitaker Contracting, and the bid for bituminous treatment (asphalt) went to Charles Watts Paving. Separate contracts will be let for each individual road project. Those set to be paved this summer according to the preliminary schedule are as follows: District 1 – County Road 4 and County Road 7; District 2 – County Road 14 and County Road 21; District 3 – County Road 28 and County Road 29; District 4 – County Road 13 and County Road 57.

In connection with appointing the acting county engineer, the commission also approved changes in the structure of the engineering department and reassigned some duties to county commissioners. The changes are intended to allow the engineering department to streamline its efforts, eliminating excessive field work so the office and the acting engineer can concentrate on carrying out technical engineering functions.

Changes include, in the language of the motion, providing that “said department will include an engineer, a licensed surveyor, one part-time office clerk, and one engineering assistant; and further provide(s) that commission districts will be responsible to order, receive, install, and maintain road signs; and the county commissioner of each district will be responsible for approving driveway pipe permits and utility permits, reviewing logging notification permits, and presenting said permits to the county engineer for final approval; and further assign(s) District 4 with responsibility for paving equipment and District 1 responsibility for all other county-wide equipment.”

The commission further approved hiring a human resources manager as a contract position. The motion authorized county attorneys to draft a three-year contract, providing for a one-year probationary period prior to the beginning contract period, and requested that the contract be available before the interview process begins.

The commission passed three resolutions. One expressed appreciation to former county engineer Winston Sitton for his five years of service. A second recommended county administrator Zac Marsh for the professional designation of Certified County Administrator and requested his application to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama be approved, as he has completed the required educational programs. The third resolution endorsed the efforts of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission in celebrating the 200th anniversary of statehood, pledging the support and participation of the Blount County Commission in its activities. In other actions, the commission:

• approved the 2017 paving schedule for District 2, listing Ashley Road (1.65 miles) and Souls Chapel Road (1.99 miles) at a total cost of $87,041. District 2 Commissioner Mike Painter said the paving is contingent on funds being available and is reasonably optimistic they will be, barring severe weather or other unforeseen events affecting District 2 roads.

• approved an appropriation of up to $8,000 to purchase a drone with enhanced photographic capabilities for $30,000 to aid in search and rescue, disaster event, and other appropriate operations in the county; purchase has become a joint project of several county agencies, including the Blount County Sheriff’s Department, the Emergency Management Agency, the city of Oneonta, the Blount County Commission, the West Blount Fire Board, and as many as six county municipalities.

• approved purchase of a used backhoe for the transfer station in District 1 for approximately $42,000; also declared surplus the New Holland backhoe currently used at the transfer station and directed disposal by the best means possible.

• approved purchase of all Blount County-related documents such as surveys and legal descriptions from Hollis & Associates for $20,000, as the company prepares to dissolve.

• voted to increase the pay grade for equipment operator II from grade 4 to grade 5; voted to increase the pay grade for equipment operator III from grade 5 to grade 6 – in both instances to remedy the setting of hourly wages too low to attract employees in the affected jobs.

Engineering matters

At the recommendation of acting county engineer Dustin Stewart, the commission approved setting speed limits at 25 mph on Paige Road in District 1, 20 mph on Sheffield Road in District 3, and 25 mph on Old Compton Road in District 4.

Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and the commission chairman were present at the business meeting. The next commission work session is set for Thursday, May 4. The next business meeting will be Monday, May 8. Both will be at 9 a.m. in the commission boardroom at the courthouse in Oneonta.