Workers, residents share concerns with plan to close highway barn in summer
SHERMAN – While County Executive Greg Edwards is looking at cost-savings for the county in closing the Sherman Highway Department Building, employees and area business owners are looking at how it will affect their daily lives.
Following a public meeting at the Sherman Fire Hall, Edwards, along with George Spanos, county public facilities director, have more homework to do.
The meeting was held to discuss the pros and cons regarding a possible change in the operation of the County Highway Barn. In November, an announcement was made that the shop could possibly be closing during the summer months in order to save money. The proposal was announced following the retirement of a district supervisor.
“Any time there is a position that has become open in county operations, the department heads have had this absolute requirement to review this position, determine whether or not it is essential to operations, whether or not there is a way that the obligation can be shared or changed in some sort of way, all for one purpose,” Edwards said. “All to help county government become the most efficient operation it can.”
During his opening remarks, Edwards promised that by closing the shop during the construction season, it would save taxpayers a minimum of $150,000 a year, while maintaining the quality of services that residents who fall under the Sherman area expect.
Despite the projected savings, though, residents spent more than an hour expressing discontent over the proposed plan and repeatedly asking to see numbers and data.
“Seeing as how we pay all your folks’ wages, I think we’re entitled to a bit of information,” one resident said, leading to a round of applause.
Another resident read a quote by Thomas Jefferson before handing Edwards a letter of intent for privatizing the shop, which was also met by applause. Other residents pointed out safety concerns, as well as vehicle maintenance, which is taken care of by the shop.
A flyer that was put together by an employee was handed out, which pointed out six other negative impacts of shutting down the Sherman County Shop. Included in the impacts were additional mileage on county vehicles, longer travel time to work sites with less work being performed, increased funding for higher fuel usage and longer response time during a storm.
Edwards pointed out that there were pros and cons to closing the shop. However, residents let him know he was missing the mark regarding their concerns.
“I live three-quarters of a mile from the Sherman Shop, I would go 40 miles to Sheridan. That’s not our concern,” one resident said. “Our concern is this district … The drive for us is not an issue. We want this area to be handled efficiently.”
Business owners in Sherman also expressed that they would lose money during the summer months, if employees were no longer working in the area, but out of Falconer and Sheridan as proposed.
“You are not just taking the guys from Sherman and sending them to Falconer and sending them to Sheridan,” one business-owner said. “You’re taking livelihoods from Sherman and sending them to Falconer and sending them to Sheridan. You guys are missing the basic point of why we’re all here. We’re here to stay alive. We’re here so we have a good livelihood.”
Sherman Mayor John Patterson also spoke on behalf of his residents, asking the County Executive to look at all options before closing the shop for the summer months.
“We fought like a son of a gun to get where we are now, and we’re going to be just like a puppy on a rope,” Patterson said. “We’re not going to let this go. We’re not going to slide backwards. We’re going to do everything that we possibly can to keep this facility open.”
Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, also posed several questions to Edwards and Spanos, before the meeting abruptly ended, as Edwards had another commitment. However, before he left, Edwards repeated several of the questions posed to him throughout the night, and promised residents that he would look into finding answers and solutions.
“I’ll do that homework. I appreciate it, thank you,” Edwards said, before a resident pointed out he ‘barely scratched the surface regarding the concerns of the residents at the meeting.
According to Spanos, the decision has not yet been made whether the shop will be closed in April for the summer months. Spanos said answers to the questions posed during the meeting would likely be posted on the county website as they become available.