Saturday, May 30, 2009
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CONYERS - The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners revisited hiring a county transportation manager instead of contracting out the work after hearing it could lead to reduced expenditures.Discussions last week shifted to the need for a transportation manager after the board looked at a contract not to exceed $50,000 a year for traffic signal maintenance, including bulb repair and replacement. Commissioners wanted to see if this and other related work could be moved in-house.Transportation falls under the county's General Services and Engineering Department and GS&E interim director Miguel Valentin said he has been doing the best he can with limited resources.In fact, Valentin said he put the transportation manager position in the 2010 budget."And what I was kindly reminded by my finance department was that there was a directive of no new positions," Valentin said, adding that he had removed the position from the budget.Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden in June called for a hiring freeze on any "non-essential" positions.Considering monitoring design projects, Valentin said there is justification for some sort of transportation manager position that would oversee costs and the progress of projects."If we do not do that, well, we're going to be dead in the water in some point in the future," Valentin said.Rockdale County is under a $3.9 million contract with Jacobs Civil Inc. for transportation management services, paying roughly $800,000 a year. The contract expires in June.Valentin explained the original intent was for Jacobs to manage special purpose local option sales tax projects.However, the contractor has "in essence" been functioning as the county's overall transportation manager, explained Valentin, and the allotted funding is depleting faster than anticipated.No other county is in this position of contracting out transportation management services, according to Valentin, based on his visits to other metro counties."Frankly, it would be up to the board to consider that position," Valentin said of the transportation manager. "We are still of the opinion that it's needed."Oden told Valentin to budget the position, and "if we kick it back, at least you would have done your job."Referring back to the hiring freeze, Oden said it will be necessary to educate the residents that it costs to run a government."We, as a county, we have to get in more of a position where we're independent," Oden said.Oden suggested getting a county employee on board before the contract with Jacobs expires."It's a lot easier to have a new person working side by side and get up to speed ... than to try to pick up the pieces later," Valentin said. Alena Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.