By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Daviess County officials are preparing to fill a long vacant position in the Highway Department. The Daviess County Commissioners will have an executive session Monday to begin interviewing applicants for the new County Engineer position.
"We advertised it and received resumes and applications from three well-qualified candidates," said County Highway Superintendent Phil Cornelius. "All of them have good backgrounds. We have some really good applicants."
A county engineer is not something totally new for Daviess County. "We had one in the past," said Commissioner's President Tony Wichman. "Our last one retired in 2002 and we just couldn't re-fill the position."
For local officials filling the spot now just makes sense. "An on-staff engineer would allow us to do our own inspections on the Cannelburg Road Project," said Cornelius. "We are hoping to do the same thing the state did when it built I-69 and keep as much engineering on the project in house. We believe that by doing that we could see as much as $600,000 in direct savings on the Cannelburg Road project in the next year and we could recover as much as $2 million over the entire project."
"Hiring an engineer now, just makes financial sense," added Wichman. "He could probably save us enough on engineering fees to consultants on the Cannelburg Road project to pay for the position over the next 7 years."
While the engineer's main focus for the first few years may be Cannelburg Road, that won't be the only work he will be doing. "We think there will be enough down time during that project to have him work on some other things for the county," said Cornelius. "This person will be an asset to us in other ways."
"This person will be able to do design and inspection work on anything else we need," added Wichman. "This will save us a lot of money on consulting fees."
One of the other selling points to local officials is that the county won't be on the hook for the entire salary. "When you hire your own engineer the state puts up $20,000 from the Motor Vehicle Highway fund," said Cornelius. "That amount of money won't hire an engineer but it does cut down on the cost locally."
While the position may be centered in the beginning on the Odon-Cannelburg Road county officials believe they will have future projects that an engineer can help them develop. "We feel that if things happen in the future like we are expecting we will have plenty of work for him to do," said Wichman. "We are going to try to do a lot more development in the Daviess County portion at the WestGate Crane Tech Park. We also are looking at some ideas for an industrial park in the northern part of the county."
"When the Odon-Cannelburg Road project is done we expect Daviess County to continue to grow," added Cornelius. "The thing is that it seems that each time we go to work on a project we find the regulations keep getting larger. There are more permitting issues than ever and those can be pretty treacherous to work through. This person will have plenty to do."
Even in these days of tight budgets and tax caps county officials are convinced they need to put an engineer back on staff. "This is good for the county," said Wichman. "It's a very good move and the time is right."
The commissioners are expected to announce their decision on a new engineer later this month.