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Friday, May 6, 2016

Shake-up in the county highway garage

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

- Superintendent Ron Chamberlain to share authority with Pete Foster in administrative change initiated by county commissioners

Clay County Commissioners initiated a shake-up in the county highway department Tuesday.

Two of the three commissioners suffered recent medical setbacks.

Commissioners Buddy Knox, David Parr and Daryl Andrews made appointments, discussed the new jail project, and approved bids in their 4 1/2-hour meeting.

Parr re-elected president

The first objective of the meeting, rescheduled from Jan. 1, was to appoint new officers within the board. Parr was re-elected to the executive seat after a unanimous vote, with Knox taking the vice president's chair.

Foster promoted to co-supervisor

The biggest news of the day came within the board's various other appointments. County Highway Supervisor Ron Chamberlain, after 10 years of service to the county, was seemingly surprised to hear that Assistant Supervisor Pete Foster had been appointed to be a co-supervisor with Chamberlain.

Chamberlain was unsure that Foster even wanted the job.

"I've talked to him about this in the past," he said. "I really think you owe it to him to ask him, be in touch, about the situation."

This didn't stop the commissioners from making their decision final. Andrews (who made the motion) and Parr voted for the change, while Knox turned it down.

"I've been in this position seven years," he said. "(Chamberlain) has got a tremendous amount of work done, and I just can't second this."

Parr and Andrews explained to Chamberlain that the vote did not signify a demotion. He will receive the same pay, and have nearly the same responsibility, becoming a "transition co-supervisor."

The two said that Chamberlain had said he planned to retire in September, and the change would give him time to train his replacement before leaving.

"I've pretty much put my heart and soul in this job," Chamberlain said. "Pete works hard, and he's a great worker, but there's still a lot of stuff about my job he doesn't know."

"You're not going to get any calls at two, three in the morning now," Parr replied, trying to justify the decision to an obviously troubled Chamberlain.

Chamberlain responded that he didn't "think that was gonna change".

Foster and Chamberlain will share authority, though Foster will make final decisions. His pay will be the same as Chamberlain's, pending a salary amendment.

Appointees retained

Most of the board's appointments were retentions. Among these were Eric Somheil, County Commissioners attorney; Gerri Husband, emergency management director; Debbie Mustard, head courthouse custodian; and Les Walden, county veteran service officer.

Andrews had nothing but good to say about many of the board's appointees.

"Gerri Husband is a blessing to us," he said. "I'd encourage (the County Council) to look into and modify her salary... raise it to reflect her work."

Former Council President Les Harding said that he agreed and would have to look into it. Andrews noted that half of Husband's salary is paid by the state, making it easier to increase her rate a bit.

The board also retained the entire Clay County Parks and Recreation Board.

Bridges, part-time engineer discussed

The board then conducted a rather lengthy discussion on widening bridges around the county, and removing abutments on them that are safety hazards. Eventually, bids for work on a bridge near White Rock Road were called for, with a date to be announced at a later time.

Out of this discussion came a brief talk on the hiring of a part-time engineer to survey jobs like the Whiterock bridge.

Next up was the old radio tower behind the jail. Parr said that two parties had expressed interest in obtaining it. His first thought was to flip a coin to decide who got it, but that plan changed to include other organizations that might not know it was available. Parr said he would ask Gerri Husband to send an e-mail to county departments that might be able to utilize it.

New jail project costs

The board then discussed the new jail project. Among other topics, the commissioners talked about:

-The total "hard" price of construction, which is not to exceed $9.2 million

-The final price, including insurance and other necessary expenses, which will be approximately $12.5 million

-Demolition of the old grocery store, which is on the lot where the new jail is to set

In a surprising turn of events, Andrews moved that the board select a bid from Jeff A. Bell Construction and Excavating on the demolition job. The motion was passed.

New airport site a possibility

Last on the agenda was a talk from the Aviation Board. Member Paul Schaffer asked about funds for the airport. The group's planned second phase was to select either a new site for the airport or to keep the old one.

As of now, the airport revenues total about $480,000 a year. The Putnam County Airport, however, brings in $3 million.

Schaffer said that the money would be put towards an expansion, which would give the county more money in the long run. The government, he said, would put major funds into the area over the years if certain criteria were met, though the process could take a very long time.

"The airport has lots of potential," he said.

Among other criteria, the airport's runways would have to be extended and lengthened.

"It would be at least three years before we started getting federal dollars," Schaffer said. "But, this could make a lot of cash in the long run."

Parr and Andrews said that much of the responsibility for the site lies in city government. While they seemed interested in the plan, their hands were tied as to what they could do.

"You'll have to ask the council for that," Andrews said.

The County Commissioners meet the first Monday of every month. The next meeting will be Feb. 2. The public is invited.

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