It was a fairly unusual situation in which Scott County Commissioners found themselves on Wednesday morning, February 1.
They had earlier followed the procedure to sell an unused paving plant obtained as surplus from the U.S. Army nearly two years ago. A legal notice was placed in these Green Banner publications, but that legal notice only attracted one bid.
One sealed bid was submitted by Wingham Paving Inc. of Charlestown, the same firm which had won the county’s contract to do nearly $2 million worth of road paving last fall. Wingham workers got a lot done, but there are still more roads to be addressed.
If the firm is successful in obtaining the paving plant setting at the Scott County Highway Department, local residents may see it at work on remaining roads to be paved under the 2016 contract.
Valued as high as $1.6 million when brand new, the plant had been used by the Army to teach proper paving procedures for plane runways and the like at overseas sites. It was among equipment labeled surplus by the Army and offered to any unit of U.S. government free which could transport it. Scott County won that right.
Commissioners had hoped the plant could be upgraded and then used by the Highway Department to pave more cheaply than awarding contracts to paving companies. Unfortunately, an expert in the field told them last year that its operation would cost the county more, not less.
Consequently, officials made the decision to sell it.
Kelley Robbins, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, held up the sealed envelope and then looked at fellow officials Bob Tobias and Mike Jones. “So, do we open it?” he asked them. “It’s the only one we got.”
Tobias was not in favor of opening the bid. “If we don’t open it, Wingham’s bid won’t become public knowledge and then he isn’t harmed and could rebid if he wanted to if we advertise it again,” explained Tobias. An auctioneer, Tobias wanted to advertise the equipment on-line and in a different publication to attract more bidders.
Ken Wingham, the bidder, told the officials that he felt his bid was a good one and for a good price. “I’ll probably have to spend around $150,000 to update and upgrade it,” he estimated.
Robbins and fellow Commissioner Mike Jones understood Tobias’ stance, and Jones offered, “I’m at a disadvantage here. I don’t know anything about this equipment, so I’m not sure if the bid would be a good deal for us or only a good deal for the bidder,” he told them. Jones was sworn in as a county commissioner on January 1. “Letting it just set there and deteriorate is also not a good idea,” Jones went on. He looked at Wingham, the bidder, telling him, “If you are comfortable with us thinking about this, we could take this under advisement and come back later with our answer.”
Wingham said he was fine with any decision on action by the Commissioners.
Robbins opened the bid. Each Commissioner read the information and handed it to Robert L. Houston, county attorney, who gave it back to Robbins.
Wingham proposed $400,000, not in cash but in paving. He proposed providing $80,000 worth per year for five years. That would add a little over one mile more for paving projects each of those years. That’s with adding two inches of pavement, Wingham said. “If you just wanted 1½ inches put down, that would be more paving,” he added.
All three Commissioners voted to table the bid. Robbins then set a special meeting for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 8. The meeting will be in the Commissioners’ Room, Suite 128, in the Courthouse.
“This should be the only thing on the agenda unless something else urgent comes up,” he stated.
Another issue brought up by Jones was the last item they considered that morning.
At the Commissioners’ meeting on January 18, Jones asked for background on why the short section of Fairgrounds between U.S. Highway 31 South and South Main Street Road, also known as Vienna Road, remains impassable to traffic.
L&I Railroad and its partner CSX had contracted with a Kentucky firm to replace all rail and repave crossings in a multi-million dollar effort to improve the short line between Louisville and Indianapolis for longer and faster trains to travel. Work in Scott County was undertaken last year, crossings being the last task attempted by R.J. Corman crews.
Most crossings were closed for only one to three days. Fairgrounds Road was closed while the company lengthened an existing side rail. It never reopened. Concrete barriers remain on the road so that motorists won’t attempt a crossing.
Commissioners discussed the closing several times as rail work wound down. They also voted last year to demand that the L&I Railroad reopen the crossing. At the January 18 meeting, Jones said he’d talk with L&I’s contact person and report back.
“He gave me this story about how no one ever used it. Sure, a lot of people don’t use it, but what they need to realize is that that is the last road south of Scottsburg. If one of their trains is blocking the tracks at Lovers Lane and ambulances or fire trucks have to go down to Vienna to cross there, it adds three miles to responders’ trips. Three miles is a lot if you can’t breathe,” he related.
On his recommendation, Commissioners agreed to have Houston send the company another letter requesting its reopening as quickly as possible.
“I’ll send them a letter. It’ll probably be a really short letter. I don’t think I’m going to have to explain the terms ‘open’ and ‘closed’ to them,” Houston remarked, causing some laughter.
All of the Commissioners will sign the letter, it was decided.