PDT Staff Writer
Tuesday afternoon Scioto County Commissioners Mike Crabtree and Doug Coleman met with a majority of the Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) employees that currently work at the garage in Lucasville.
Those attending the meeting wanted to inform the commissioners they favor the construction of the Portsmouth Bypass, but are concerned about the long term maintenance of state roadways within Scioto County.
ODOT is considering allowing the contractor that builds the $600 million, 17-mile bypass to maintain all of the state and federal roadways as a part of the contract.
If enacted the majority of the employees of the ODOT garage in Lucasville would be transferred to other facilities within ODOT District 9.
Over the last several weeks and months ODOT has held meetings with local and state officials to update them on the status of the project. Over the course of the meetings, the commissioners have been asked to sign a letter endorsing the Public-Private partnership (P3) process ODOT is using to accelerate project funding which in turn would allow the roadway to be completed quicker than using traditional funding sources.
According to Crabtree, Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman is composing a letter of support for the project relating to the P3 process and the development of the Portsmouth Bypass.
Crabtree said there has been a lot of conversations going on about the bypass and ODOT is aware of the county’s concerns about the operation of the garage in Lucasville and its employees.
“I think right now there is a lot of negotiations going on, and I don’t know how far along they are. It’s my understanding they are having discussions about how to deal with the garage out here,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree said the P3 process is ODOT’s way of looking at new and innovative ways to fund projects like the Portsmouth Bypass throughout the state.
“We (commissioners) have not made any decision at this point as to what we’re doing. We’ve voiced our concerns, the engineer has voiced his concerns about some of the things they want to accomplish with this. At this point we’re still in the talking stage,” Crabtree said.
Coleman said the latest meeting with ODOT was held two weeks ago and it was clear ODOT wanted the support of the commissioners.
“We were told you guys (garage employees) were not going to lose your jobs. I told them we are going to be against this if those people lose their jobs. I was told if we don’t sign off on it this project is not going to happen for 30 years,” Coleman said. “I think they are throwing us (commissioners) underneath the bus, using us.”
Some of the employees told Coleman that they are looking into what the cost savings would be for the state if they were to keep the garage and it’s employees instead of what it would cost to have a private contractor do the same work.
Coleman also urged the employees to look at the issue from their perspective.
“We’re getting a lot of pressure from the unions to endorse this. That’s a lot of work, you all have to understand that,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to all work on this and prove you all will save them money instead of costing them money.”
Christopher Mabe, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association president said the workers are not opposed to the construction of the bypass.
“It’s not that anybody is against the bypass, it’s the additional things they (ODOT) are adding to the end of taking over more core ODOT work. In talking to the governor he has a different understanding of what privatization means to public services,” Mabe said. “When you look at what happened to the Virginia Department of Transportation when they had a privatized company take over roadwork, snow removal and pothole removal it actually cost them $32 million more at the end of the year because of shoddy work.”
Mabe said once those works are privatized, the community is at the mercy of that company. He said it’s hard to tell what will happen once the private company starts a maintenance program of the bypass.
“Nobody is against people putting private money into the state, we don’t want to find out down the road that some private company builds a road down here and five years from now puts toll booths on it because it’s their road,” Mabe said.
Mabe said, the group supports the bypass and supports public sector work that’s more cost effective and efficient.
“These jobs are public sector works and we provide a service to the citizens of Ohio. This is a service that cannot be interrupted by a private company. Private companies do a job to make a profit and if we’re doing the same job at no profit the money goes back to the tax payer,” Mabe said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the commissioners and the employees stated they would work together and do what they could to keep the garage in Scioto County.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.