Paving Controversy Could Prompt Change in Policy

Reporter: Ben Jackey

Vanderburgh County road crews were to pave Fischer Road last Friday, but a paving machine broke down and could not be fixed quickly.

With no way to fix the paver, and hardening of the asphalt inevitable, county superintendent Dennis Hudnall allowed the dumping and smoothing of asphalt in the driveways of three county employees.

Republicans call it bad judgment, saying potholes should have been filled instead. Now, the county commission aims to make sure it's not a judgement call in the future. Republican Commissioner Suzanne Crouch says, "I do believe this decision was a poor one. It was a bad one. I don't think we should ever, ever put anything on private property, and I think to do so is an abuse of the taxpayers' money."

Hudnall says, "I did the best I could with what I had." But even Democrat Catherine Fanello says she wasn't pleased with the decision. Forty eight tons of asphalt at thirty dollars a ton in private drives, drives of county garage employees who, Hudnall says, agreed to take it off his hands. "It can maybe be perceived that I helped a county employee out. The way I perceived it, they helped us out."

Hudnall says a cost he couldn't avoid was returning asphalt to the company from which he received it. However, he wasn't sure how much because he didn't ask. "I know they're not going to do it for free. I know that. So, I'm still adding costs. The decision I made didn't add any costs."

To alleviate the guesswork again, commissioners agreed a procedure needs to be written to give the superintendent a better picture of what to do in the future. But Democrat David Mosby, who called Hudnall's decision ' a good one', says that may not be the answer. "When it's excess and we're pouring streets or digging ditches, are we doing to treat one material different than the other? Are we going to have one procedure, or are we going to have five procedures?"

With potential overtime on the line, Hudnall says filling potholes with the asphalt would have cost more money. He believes he saved the county ten to twelve thousand dollars by giving someone else a smoother ride since Fischer Road wasn't an option that day. "If I had to make that same decision before I came to this meeting. I would have probably made the same decision."

Environmental guidelines will not allow an oil-based material like asphalt to be dumped. Hudnall and the commissioners will meet next week to decide what can be put on the books if this happens again.