DOT hopes to begin road work ‘right away’

March 29, 2019

HUNTINGTON — It’s going to take some time for the West Virginia Department of Transportation to sort through the massive pile of papers containing lists of roads requiring maintenance in the state, said newly appointed Secretary Byrd White.

The lists were compiled by county supervisors and district managers at the behest of Gov. Jim Justice and released to the public this week.

“We are trying to be totally transparent to tell the public here’s what we got in.” White said. “We are going to spend some time sorting through, eliminating duplications and filling in gaps. It’s been done very quickly, so some things were left out and are coming in now. We want to be totally transparent as to what we are doing.”

White said the department is working to upload the information into a database that will allow the DOT to cross reference what the supervisors sent in with what is already planned for.

“If it doesn’t require designs or engineering, we will get started on it right away,” White said.

A separate database has been created for the counties’ equipment requests so the DOT can more easily compare what everyone wants.

White said some pieces of equipment might need to be shared by the counties within the state’s 10 districts.

“Like Gradalls,” White said. “Everyone wants one, but everyone can’t have one because of the expense.”

The department will also have to consider how much money they have to buy and what equipment is available to purchase, White said.

“It’s not like going to the grocery store to buy jam,” he said.

Equipment requests were paired with lists of needed laborers, operators, crew leaders and other workers. White said they are working to fill the job vacancies for jobs currently needed.

“We have a list by district of the available positions, but not all available positions are needed right now,” White said. “Maybe we had a position for a backhoe operator when we really need a gradall operator. We want to match up the real needs with the vacancies.”

During a 2017 special session after passage of “Roads to Prosperity” bonds, the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation to streamline the hiring process within the DOT, which had 500 vacancies at the time. The following session in 2018, the Legislature included DOT workers in with a 5 percent average pay raise, trying to make the jobs more enticing.

White said they are continuing to shorten the hiring process every day.

“A lot of that problem was created by a shortage of people that took care of that,” he said. “We are getting much better at the speed we are hiring people.”

White said he was given a big task but that he will get it done.

“Justice has told me, if you can’t get it done in 24 hours, then you have to work nights,” he said.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.