(08/25/2007)
State workers who fear that West Virginia is moving toward privatizing public services will bring their message to the Capitol this weekend.

The largest protest group of state employees will likely be from the Division of Highways.

They will hold a rally at 9 a.m. today in the Rotunda to bring attention to their concerns.

The agency is auctioning off vehicles and equipment it claims is never or rarely used, stoking fears of privatization.

The West Virginia Department of Highways is changing how county highway divisions maintain roads.

A statewide Core Maintenance Plan, implemented 18-months-ago, is calling for better utilization of manpower and equipment, according to John Walker, Deputy State Highway Engineer.

Walker told the Hur Herald the new program is eliminating some work projects generally handled by county workers.

"We've always used contractors to take care of some slips and pipe work," said Walker, adding the changes are "More about managing dollars than contracting."

Many highway workers are suspicious about directions the agency is going, claiming officials want to outsource or contract services to their political friends.

Walker said "We don't anticipate any layoffs. We're going to focus on basic road maintenance."

He maintains getting rid of the equipment does not indicate the department plans to contract out more of its work, while indicating there are plans to reduce the DOH transportation fleet by 200 vehicles.


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