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Great paving debate continues in county

Washington County Commissioner Mark Ferguson brought the same paving resolution back to the county commission during the Oct. 28 meeting that he had tried to discuss last month, but offered it with a much different introduction.
Since becoming chair of the Public Works Committee, Ferguson has been on a crusade to have the commission pass a resolution placing all paving outside of the Washington County road system on hold, with the exception of projects already approved by the County-Owned Property Committee.
Despite acknowledging state law gives the authority for such decisions to Highway Superintendent Johhny Deakins, Ferguson has refused to give up his quest to get a resolution passed allowing the commission to have a role in it.
Commissioners refused to discuss a resolution Ferguson distributed at the September meeting because it had not been included in the meeting packet.
He brought it back this month and said the committee had spoken with Deakins about it.
“Basically what this resolution says is we’re going on record as a non-binding resolution to (state) the paving plan for the county,” he said.
Deakins didn’t agree that any kind of resolution had been reached.
“I appreciate your saying it that way, but that’s not my understanding,” he said. “This resolution says all (county) roads must be completed first, and that doesn’t always happen.”
Deakins also referred to a sentence in the resolution that reads “due to the urgent need of several county road projects,” the road superintendent needs to complete all county road projects prior to beginning projects for other governmental entities.
“I’m not aware of any urgent road needs,” Deakins said. “We didn’t get to be the best department in the state by putting off projects.”
Deakins said he does not support the resolution and asked for the support of commissioners in opposing it.
Commissioner Ethan Flynn made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Joe Grandy, to refer the resolution back to the Public Works Committee to iron out the differences in the understandings between committee members and Deakins.
The motion passed unanimously.
Commissioner David Tomita questioned the county commission’s role in this area.
“This is a colossal waste of time in micromanaging a department that we’re not doing to others,” he said, noting the commission isn’t telling County Clerk Kathy Storey or Property Assessor Scott Buckingham how to run their offices.
In addition, Tomita said the action was insulting and disrespectful to Deakins.
“And to say it’s not binding is ridiculous,” he added. “What is this, if not binding?”
Deakins said he would have preferred the commission vote during the meeting, saying the resolution challenges his authority and judgement to perform his job.
He also was surprised by the change in Ferguson’s presentation.
“That was one of the things that kind of puzzled me,” Deakins said after the meeting. “It was a totally different spin than in the Public Works meetings or last month’s commission meeting. I don’t think they had enough votes to pass it.”