NCDOT says privatizing some road work will
improve service on Hatteras, Ocracoke
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
effort to look at ways to privatize some state road maintenance and
improvements was announced this month by the state Department of
Transportation just a week after an invitation for bids was published
seeking contractors to do maintenance work on Highway 12 on Hatteras
and Ocracoke islands.
But the two are not directly related, said Sterling Baker, NCDOT division maintenance engineer.
said that private contractors would be able to combine a number of
tasks in one contract and help replace manpower on the islands lost
from budget tightening.
“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years,” he said.
DOT workers who have been posted on each island – two in Buxton, two on
Ocracoke - will remain, Baker said. And much of the
maintenance work is already contracted out, he said.
“Truthfully, we don’t envision a whole lot of impact to the workforce,” he said.
the new contracts are intended to do, he said, is to improve service on
the southern Outer Banks, as well as allow the 16 workers posted in
Manteo to be more available for road jobs in the rest of their area,
which includes Currituck County.
“It’s not financially or
logistically viable for us to bring them in from Manteo to do the
work,” Baker said about the island projects.
Road projects put
out for bid on Oct. 28 included grass mowing, pothole repair, tree
control, vegetation management, debris removal, litter pickup, drainage
ditch maintenance, installation and repair of culverts, road sweeping,
traffic control and sign repair.
When possible, DOT has been
doing the work in-house, except for mowing, Baker said. But because the
DOT crews have been spread so thin, he added, the agency has already
had to contract out for some bigger projects with various on-call
contractors throughout the state. The smaller jobs, however, were not
put out to bid because of the costs.
What the new contracts would do, Baker said, is combine the jobs into a single contract, one for each island.
main goal is to see responsive turn-around . . . and quicker,” he said.
“We still will retain all the emergency response, all the sand-moving.”
Bids are due by Nov. 19. The contracts are expected to be
awarded about two weeks later and to be performed between Jan. 1 and
Dec. 31, 2015.
Allen Burrus, vice-chairman of the Dare County
Board of Commissioners and a Hatteras resident, said that he had
initially heard that all the maintenance work would be privatized,
which left him concerned that the DOT staff on the islands would lose
their jobs. But he has since learned that whatever private contracting
is needed will not mean loss of the local crew.
happy with DOT services that the guys give in the area,” he said. “They
work hard. They work nights. They work weekends.”
said that he is still skeptical about the degree of privatization that
DOT is planning, and whether it will result in cost savings. And
even if it does, he said, it could be at the expense of poor service,
as has happened elsewhere with garbage pickup.
start, where do you stop? There’s no half way in or half way out,” he
said. “I don’t see it. I’m going to keep pressure on them to find out
what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, the state Board of
Transportation this month approved a draft study that recommended
charging more in fees for some services and cutting costs by using
private sponsorships for highway beautification projects and rest
areas. It also said that the state should consider creating legislation
that would allow business signs on highways to generate more revenue,
and to have the program managed by a private entity.
recommendations are due to the Joint Legislative Transportation
Oversight Committee and the Fiscal Research Division by Dec.1.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read an NCDOT study on fees, sponsorship, and privatization.