BIG HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT AUCTION - Calhoun Gets Smallest Amount Road Money

By Bob Weaver

The state Division of Highways is holding the first of two large public equipment auctions today in Buckhannon.

Highway secretary Paul Mattox has been adamant the selling of a lot of extra equipment used in county maintenance is not a signal that the agency is going to outsource or downsize.

The Core Maintenance Program, a new system which focuses on basic road patching, grading, mowing and snow removal, is moving forward, although West Virginia legislators seemed to be unaware of the changes this week. (See earlier Herald stories)

Deputy State Highway Engineer for Operations John Walker said today's auction is the annual DOH auction, indicating it is routine.

It is expected to bring $4 million.

"We have equipment every year that needs to be replaced. It has reached its useful life and we take it to the auction and try to get the most out of it as we can."

A second auction of much newer equipment is scheduled for September.

Walker says the agency hopes to get rid of several major pieces of equipment that aren't being used.

He says the second auction is simply about getting rid of dump trucks, end loaders and other large pieces of equipment that are parked most of the time.

He says it's not new equipment by any means.

"Some of it will not have met its useful life, but I would venture to say nearly all of it will still be quite old," indicating most of the equipment is four to six years old."

Walker claims the annual savings for the agency by getting rid of the surplus equipment is between six and eight million dollars, a statement that skeptics told the Herald is misleading.

Secretary Mattox has said his department is continuing to push legislation that allows public-private road projects, already in existence in twenty-one states.

Mattox said the passage of the public-private road bill would mean new highway construction for the Mountain State.

Those roads would be toll highways.

Calhoun County continues to be allocated the least amount of project money for road improvements. (See earlier Herald story)