Commissioners skip critical step in buying roadway system

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By The Staff

A step critical in the efficient spending of government funds was apparently skipped before county commissioners voted this month to make a $100,000 purchase.

That idea: Look around for the best deal you can find.

If OK'd by the county council Jan. 29, the purchase approved by two of Perry County's three commissioners will provide a system for assessing the conditions of the county's 520 miles of roadway.

One of the commissioners, Bill Amos, voted against the purchase. He and several county residents who have spoken up are right in asking the commissioners hard questions about the need for the system, and in working to hold their public servants accountable. The questions they're asking and comments they're offering are sensible, and we hope the county council thinks long and hard before approving spending for the system.

Comments expressed in a commissioners meeting were reported in a Jan. 8 News story. Not reported were those expressed on The News' Web site Jan. 5 in response to an initial report the commissioners were eyeing the system.

"Seems a county road worker could drive around and see what needs to be done for a case of Bud," observed a reader identified only as "Tucker." "Plus we'd have 99,980 dollars to use for road repairs. I smell a big kickback for the commissioners."

We assume Tucker didn't mean to imply county workers should drink while driving. They shouldn't require compensation beyond their pay and benefits, and we've seen no evidence the commissioners will benefit personally from the purchase. Beyond that, we think Tucker has a point.

Another reader, who signed another missive "Taxed to death," wrote that the proposed system would do "exactly what the county highway superintendent and our county commissioners are paid to do. If this is approved, we the taxpayer(s are) getting raped. There is absolutely no need for this, unless you are just wanting to give David some business."

The writer was referring to David Goffinet, a representative of the Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates engineering firm who pitched the system to the commissioners.

We argue that some kind of system is sorely needed. County residents have made numerous appearances before the commissioners over the years to plead for relief from dust that exasperates breathing problems in some people and prevents many from enjoying outdoor activities. Others have said their roads don't support the heavy trucks making deliveries in support of their farming operations.

"We appreciate your dilemma, but we don't have money," is the gist of the commissioners' typical response.

The complexity of a pavement-maintenance system could range from hand-written pages to a simple database maintained with off-the-shelf software to high-tech products incorporating data from geographic information systems. Each level of sophistication has its costs and benefits, which careful government representatives would weigh before deciding to spend big chunks of money. Once they decided on the general type of system needed, they would check to see who offers such systems and for how much.

We urge Perry County's leaders to take time to examine their options. The words, "we looked around, and this is the best deal we could find," are like music to a taxpayer's ear.

The issue is on the agenda for a commissioners meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.