STATE HIGHWAY CHIEF DENIES OUTSOURCING - Giant $4 Million Auction Set, Supervisors Told Info Is "Secret"


CALHOUN'S DOH GARAGE - Only "changing scope," not
downsizing, outsourcing or privatizing, says Charleston

By Bob Weaver

Widespread speculation about the West Virginia Division of Highways moving toward outsourcing or privatization of services is not accurate, according to DOH official Paul Mattox.

Mattox told the Joint Committee on Government and Finance that "The core maintenance plan is not an excuse for outsourcing routine maintenance work, or an excuse to cut employees from payroll."

Four million dollars of highway equipment is scheduled to be auctioned, some this weekend in Buckhannon.

DOH employees say it is a major cutback on services that historically have been provided in each county.

Mattox, the DOH transportation secretary, says "core maintenance" is a new program to focus county Division of Highways road crews on routine maintenance, saying it is a matter of improving efficiency, not an attempt to outsource work to private contractors.

Mattox told the legislative committee that under the new system, county road crews will focus strictly on core maintenance, including mowing, snow and ice removal, and minor road patching and repairs, leaving larger projects to special heavy maintenance crews in each of the 10 DOH districts.

He says in the transition to the new system, the DOH has moved "idle" equipment out of the counties to be auctioned.

Highway workers who spoke to the Herald anonymously, said that key maintenance equipment, some new, has been removed from regional counties.

The workers said most outsourcing or privatization of services have increased costs to WV taxpayers.

They said supervisors were told at regional meetings not to divulge information to workers or the public about the equipment sell-off and proposed operational changes.

One county worker said they now have no mowers to mow grass.

Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin said there has been "a roar from around the state" from county-level DOH employees over the removal of equipment.

Legislators contacted by the Herald seemed clueless regarding any major shift in operation.

"We have identified idle equipment, and the idle equipment is what's for sale," Mattox said.

Mattox said "Absolutely not," when questioned about loss of jobs.