Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bozarth would like to merge cities' street units into county road department, but Judge-Executive Coyle says no

By Miranda Sergent
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

One of the longest, roughest winters in many years reminded Kentuckians that roadway maintenance is a huge priority in small Kentucky communities. Midway has had some challenges and changes on that front lately, and outgoing Mayor Tom Bozarth has ideas for an even bigger change.

Bozarth has an emerging idea that he thinks will better the town of Midway. He wants to merge the city’s street department with Woodford County’s road department. He says he doesn’t understand why the county has three road departments and he thinks it would be logical to merge them into one.

“The Woodford County Road Department has the equipment and capabilities and it could save Midway and Versailles money for our taxpayers,” Bozarth says, adding that the quality and level of service would greatly improve for all three jurisdictions. The county has a road engineer.

Bozarth’s plan has several supporters, but not County Judge-Executive John Coyle. He says the City of Midway would benefit from the merging of road crews, but the county would not.

Bozarth says the Midway road crew has done a good job maintaining the city’s streets, but if merged with the county crews,  work could be more efficient and more resources could be available. He said no one in Midway should have to lose their job in a merger.

Midway mayoral candidates Sharon Turner and Grayson Vandegrift, both on the city council, say they are interested in looking further into the idea of merged road services if elected.

Vandergrift says, “I like the idea of looking into merged services in certain cases so that Midway can save the taxpayers money and avoid duplicating services.”

Turner said the idea is worth researching, and thinks the merger of the police departments into the Versailles force, and the emergency management agreement among the governments, both work well.

Midway-area Magistrate Larry Craig agrees that merged services could be a great idea. “Anytime you can do away with the duplication of services, it can be beneficial,” he says. “You might spend the same amount of money, but efficiency would go up. Merged services doesn’t mean you cut the budget necessarily, but you get more for your dollar.”

Craig said Woodford County road crews have better equipment than the City of Midway, and adding the cities’ equipment and workers would only improve the services. He said that if the county could develop a contracting system for the road crews like it has done for the police department; in the long run money will be saved.

Coyle, who is running for re-election without opposition in the May 20 Democratic primary, disagrees. He and Bozarth clashed over road matters when Midway became a fourth-class city, like Versailles, Coyle and the Fiscal Court stopped clearing snow in the city.

“The court and I felt we must treat both fourth class cities alike so we no longer need to clear the roads inside the Midway city limits,” he said. The city has hired a private contractor for show clearance at a cost of about $20,000.

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