TORRINGTON – After nearly a year as the interim head of the department, Val Hankins was named the full-time Goshen County Road and Bridge Superintendent during the Goshen County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.
As the department begins to prepare for its summer projects, the GCC voted unanimously in favor of Hankins taking the job full-time. Hankins served in the interim position since Jerry Hort retired last summer.
“Val has done, as far as I’m concerned, a fabulous job,” Ellis said. “There have been so many changes in the county. The phone calls have gone from hundreds down to very few, and I just want to commend her on all she has done. We’re glad to have her on board.”
For her part, Hankins credited the department’s employees for its success.
“I appreciate your confidence in me, and I would just add that we have a great crew and a bunch of hard-working operators that seem to be dedicated to making things right,” she said.
It’s no secret the state of the county’s dirt roads has been a hot topic over the past few years. The topic has been discussed heatedly and at length at GCC meetings, and culminated when around 80 county residents confronted the GCC in June of last year. That meeting resulted in a five-point plan to fix the roads – and Hankins’ hiring fulfills one of those needs.
The plan included hiring a new superintendent, forming a citizen advisory committee, examining a special use tax, considering private contractors to fix some trouble spots, and finding advanced training for the department’s operators.
The commission had to introduce a new public comment procedure earlier this year after an irate citizen had to be escorted out of the commission’s chambers by law enforcement, but a lot of the feedback from citizens has been positive since Hankins has taken over.
The citizen advisory group launched a Facebook page, Goshen County roads, to discuss the issue, and for the first time in a few years the comments are leaning positive.
“A big thank you to our blade operators in the north,” Koreen Rapp wrote on March 10. “We appreciate you all. Our road is in great shape.”
Hankins discussed the department’s next move even before she was voted as the new permanent road boss.
She presented the GCC with an agreement to tap into the county’s restricted County Road Funds account and use $400,000 to repair problematic areas around the county. The Goshen County Road Rehabilitation Project will seek outside contractors to tackle some of the most difficult portions of the county’s roads.
“We got a bunch of the design done and we’re going to start advertising that here pretty soon,” she said. “This is phase one, and we’ve picked areas that are close together. The second phase will be a couple more areas that are close together. That is our plan.”
According to the agreement, the project will attempt to remedy problems with the roads through a variety of means.
“This project is necessary to repair and reconstruct historically problematic areas within Goshen County by outside forces,” the agreement said.
“The areas are historically problematic due to high traffic, poor road base, deteriorating profiles and drainage issues. The repairs and reconstruction will include, but are not limited to, road narrowing, building and reshaping, profile correction, base material incorporation, ditch construction and culvert installation.”