As road crews enter the year’s final three-month stretch, County Road Manager Victor Collins says Oktibbeha County is mostly on schedule with its assigned work within its four-year road plan.
The year hasn’t been without its delays, as Collins says his crews are approximately 75-80 percent complete with this year’s work. As the seasons change, he said his crews will work hard to finish as many projects as possible before winter weather conditions slow down the group’s efforts.
“Everything that we have to reclaim and pave, we plan to have all of those roads paved by the end of the year; we should have build work completed on Harris Road; and we want to get in on Reform Road and get that cleared and mostly built if possible,” Collins said. “We’re mostly on target with our plan. We should have been finished with Harris and Pat Station (roads), but (right-of-way) signature collection took longer. Collecting signatures and making sure paperwork is in place has been the thing that’s slowed us down.”
Earlier this year, Oktibbeha County acquired a 2013 Freightliner truck equipped with a 24-foot liquid asphalt distributor. Collins says that acquisition allowed his crews to work quicker and more effectively than a previous two-man, 1983 model allowed in the past.
“It’s a nice machine and it’s making work so much easier,” he said. “You wonder how you did without it.”
Once cooler temperatures take hold in northern Mississippi, Collins said road crews transition from paving and chip-sealing efforts to pot hole maintenance and equipment upkeep. This transition normally happens by mid-November.
“Even big contractor jobs stop then because of the temperature change. As far as if we have a good, dry winter, we’ll keep all of our clearing and building projects going. If it holds, we’ll go right on through the winter months — we won’t stop,” he said. “Winter does though give us a chance to do a lot of upkeep and pot hole work — that’s the biggest part of what we do in the winter.”
County mosquito spraying efforts will also continue through the year as the mercury drops in area thermometers. Collins’ crews currently divide the county between two spray crews. Those crews begin spraying in more-populated areas while working their way to the most outlying areas of Oktibbeha County. Once a crew finishes its sweep, the process begins again.
In March, Collins unveiled the county’s $10.08 million, four-year road plan. According to the plan, the county will reclaim 23.6 miles, build 23.6 miles and pave 19.75 miles. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer has made three public calls for extra road funding through bond issuances, proposing note amounts ranging from $9.5 million to $3 million. Each bond-intent notice was defeated by a majority board of supervisors vote.
In September, Trainer said the board needed to secure extra road funding to accomplish more of its four-year road plan new before increasing price fluctuations associated with materials and gasoline drive costs higher. The county’s previous four-year road plan was delayed by weather and funding issues, he said in January.
“Since I’ve been on the board, we get less and less done because costs are going higher and higher. I think (securing extra funding for road construction and maintenance issues) is absolutely critical, especially considering the time element. We can’t control the costs of increasing products and services. The time value of money is what we’re up against. We know a dollar today won’t have the same purchasing power next year or 10 years down the line.” Trainer said in September. “It would be cheaper to do a project now than 15 years from now. We need to maximize the here and now with our borrowing authority.”
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard said the road department has performed its job well this year following previous years’ delays. When asked if he would support a future road bond, Howard said the board would be prudent to analyze the direction and abilities of its road department and its capabilities. Howard voted against each of Trainer’s three bond-issue notices.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, and I think we’ll always continue to look for ways to tweak the process to make it better and more efficient,” Howard said. “As with anything, there’s always room for re-assessment. From year to year, I think we would be slacking a little in our duties if we didn’t re-assess our department and look to see if it would be beneficial to float some sort of bond. I’m never against re-assessing, but at this time I’m very pleased with the progress our department has made and the direction we’re heading in.”