Jefferson County way behind on road projects

Road repaying got put on a back burner when Jefferson County was in bankruptcy. That's history. Commissioners say money, staff and equipment is available now to get the job done. Trouble is, it's not being done. And the commission wants to know why.{} County manager Tony Petelos says the funds still aren't there. Commissioner Jimmie Stephens says he was told the county had the personnel to get the job done, up{}until a month ago. The county's roads director had said to expect between 120 and 200 miles to be paved this year. To date, just ten miles have been paved."I{}was shocked to find out that only ten miles have been paved," says{}Stephens. Stephens says during a budget meeting in the fall of 2013, the county roads and transportation department stipulated that they would pave 120 to 200 miles of road in 2014, in exchange for the purchase of new paving equipment totaling one million dollars.{} "We don't have enough personnel to man the machines to get the work done. You can't blame roads and transportation for their lack of personnel." Stephens maintains, the money is there to bring in more people. However, the hiring process has slowed.{} "What we have through our consent decree with our federal receiver, is that has slowed our process of being able to hire people to get the job done. The process is in place to hire these people, but it won't be done in time to get it done."County manager Tony Petelos offers a different take.{} "We are working overtime, we have folks working overtime to get caught up. But it's just the financial state that we're in and the fact that we're not in a position to hire,"{}Petelos says.Tracy Pate is the county's interim roads and transportation department head. She declined an interview.{} But, Petelos explained Pate's recent $28,000 raise.{} "Over the last year we had the director and the assistant director retire. So she is doing the job of the director, the assistant director, plus she's doing her old job as an engineer."{}The department's budget dropped from $40 million to just $18 million.{} "Several years ago we had over 400 employees, today we have 160 something employees,"{}Petelos explains. Jefferson{}County crews were out laying fresh asphalt on Lindsey Loop Drive on Wednesday.{} Petelos says, "For a county our size, we need to be paving many, many more miles than what we are doing now. But when we don't have the funds and we don't have the staff, it's very difficult to do." Jimmie Stephens says the commission has requested a list of the upcoming road projects and completed projects in order prioritize the ones that need immediate action.