County : Road and bridge hire on tap

Howard County commissioners moved one step closer to hiring a new road and bridge administrator during a special meeting Monday morning, as the court looks to fill the position, which has been open since late March.Commissioners met Monday in executive session to discuss two candidates, both of which County Judge Mark Barr described as extremely well qualified.“We met in executive session and decided which out of the two candidates we wanted to offer the position to,” Barr said. “We met with the candidate and made the offer, at which time he asked for a day to discuss the matter with his family. We expect to hear back from him sometime today, at which time the court will make the announcement.”Until then, however, Barr said he and the rest of the commissioners court would be keeping the identity of the candidate under wraps.“He’s currently employed elsewhere and he needs time to give notice,” Barr said. “Also, we don’t want to be premature about this. There is always the chance he might come back and decide not to accept the position. So we’ll wait until everything is official before we announce who it is.”Howard County has been without a road and bridge administrator since Eddy Jameson, who was with the county for 18 years, was dismissed from the position in late March. The decision to dismiss Jameson was made by a unanimous vote of the court following an executive session concerning the matter.Barr declined to discuss the specifics of the dismissal following the March meeting, saying only the working environment between management and employees in the department had become very dysfunctional. Despite the dismissal, Jameson remained eligible for retirement benefits and received thanks from the court for his many years of service to the county.Also during Monday’s meeting, commissioners held a budget workshop in an effort to prepare the county’s financial plan for the coming fiscal year.According to Barr, the budget process is moving along smoothly.“We’ve finished conducting interviews with the department heads, so we’re in the process of going through and looking at what everyone has requested and what we can provide,” Barr said. “Things are going pretty good so far.”Barr said one challenge that will face the court — not only in this year’s budget but for at least several years to come — will be the financial drain county road maintenance will place on the government entity.“As most people know by now, the boom in the oilfield has caused a tremendous increase in truck traffic in the county, specifically on our county roadways,” Barr said. “There’s simply no way, at the rate things are going right now, we can keep up with the amount of wear and tear that’s happening.“One of the things we’re looking at in the coming year’s budget is a pretty hefty increase in the road and bridge budget. We’re going to have to do something. We’re already looking at some possible ways to finance these repairs through permits, but even that is up in the air right now.”Even with an increase in the road and bridge budget, Barr said the problem facing the county concerning much-needed maintenance on its county roads isn’t one that will be addressed in a single year.“Regardless of how much of an increase we make this year, this isn’t a problem that’s going away anytime soon,” Barr said. “It’s going to take multiple years to address this issue and get our county roads back into shape.”Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at