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PWD Bill Noll reflects after 12 months on the job

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas

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One year in

A couple of ideas the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners had been "kicking around" to use the words Chairman Richard Malm used at the time became a reality Jan. 13 of last year when the county combined the Road and Bridge Department with its Auxiliary Services operation and gave the whole thing a new name, Public Works.

Malm and fellow Commissioners Wayne Ledbetter and Lynn Luck tapped Bill Noll, then the county's Planning and Zoning administrator, to head up Public Works, confident of his abilities to manage two sets of employees while overseeing the various activities they are engaged in from day to day on behalf of the county. But Noll continued to serve as the Planning and Zoning administrator into early March, when he was replaced by the current administrator, Sam Henderson, so there for a while he was essentially "wearing three different hats" as he went about his duties.

Now that Noll has been the county's Public Works Director for a full year, I thought this would be an appropriate time to give him an opportunity to both look back at what has happened and look ahead to what could happen from his unique perspective in discussing the job and what it entails. With that in mind, then, I submitted the following questions to him a couple of weeks ago by way of email and here are the answers I received from him:

Q. - At the December meeting of the Sarcoxie Township Board you shared your credentials with those present and also mentioned some of the work you have done in the past. I know you used to be the county's Planning and Zoning administrator and that you are a licensed surveyor, but for the benefit of all of our readers, could you please tell us how long you have been with the county, briefly discuss your credentials, and share your work history to the extent you feel comfortable doing so.

A. -I have been with the county since Oct. 2011, so just over three years. I'm also a Certified Floodplain Manager. Prior to that I worked for American Surveying of rural Os-kaloosa primarily completing the research, field work, and AutoCad drawings for rural boundary surveys, ALTA surveys, and lot surveys for two and a half years. Prior to that I worked for McAfee Henderson Solutions out of their Johnson County locations as an LSIT (Land Surveyor in Training) Crew Leader for four years. For MHSI completed construction staking projects, engineering topographic surveys, and boundary surveys. Larger projects included layout for the Wheeler Downtown Airport Revitalization, US-73 - K-7 Highway through Lansing, North Oak Traffic Way, and the Riverstone Apartments Complex and all surveying services from design to constructions for multiple schools and subdivisions. Prior to that I played college football and graduated from Missouri Western with a Bachelor's of Science in Construction Engineering.

Q. - What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment on the job so far?

A. - I would say that securing $1,579,442.23 in federal grants and monies that will allow Jefferson County to have three bridges replaced, West Lake Road milled, and the curves at 13th and Wellmian widened with limited tax dollar besing used for matching funds.

Q. - What has been your biggfest disappointment to date?

A. - Having the unfortunate event of the passing of George Pentlin, a Road and Bridge employee of 47 years, just weeks prior to his planned retirement date and the fact the he so looked forward to a retirement lunch that he was not able to attend.

Q. - What do you like the most about your job?

A. -1 enjoy working on the challenges that are presented and the feeling of satisfaction for both myself and my employees when these challenges are completed. I also enjoy working for the community in which I live.

Q. - What do you like the least?

A. - The most frustrating aspect of my job is the realization that there are projects that need immediate attention but unfortunately they are not fiscally feasible to complete.

Q. - Last year and especially during the first part of the year you requested several executive sessions with the county commissioners to discuss non-elected personnel. Are the issues that prompted these meetings pretty much in the rear view mirror, so to speak, and how would you describe the current work environment at Public Works?

A. -1 only feel comfortable speaking about the current environment of the Public Works Department. The current Public Works Department has a greatly improved morale and new focus on production and accountability.

Q. - Do you have some specific goals for 2015 with respect to Public Works and, if so, what are they?

A. - Completion of the Ferguson Road bridge just north of 24 Highway over Wildhorse Creek; replacement of the single lane box culvert bridge on Nemaha Road just north of 134th Street; replacement of the single lane box culvert on Riley Road just south of 175th Street; completion of the Engineering Services and permitting for the replacement of the bridges on 142nd and 202nd streets; completion of the widening of the curves on Wellman at 13th Street; completion of the West Lake Road profile milling and chip and seal; completion of 50 miles of chip and seal on black top roads; completion of ditch work on Washington Road; ongoing crowning of the county's gravel roads for better drainage; bring the Jefferson County's Bridge Inspection Program into compliance with KDOT standards; implementation of a new Noxious Weed Control Program.

Q. - Last year you applied for and were awarded grants to replace two bridges and make some improvements to Wellman Road. Do you anticipate going after more grants this year and, if so, what specific projects will you be targeting?

A. - I will apply for any and all grants as they come available and I have submitted applications for additional grant money for high risk rural roads and bridges that will automatically be filed as grants come available. At this time I'm unaware of any available monies. I do not currently know of any specific grants that are guaranteed to be available as all of the grants that I have received thus far were granted by KDOT and with the state's fiscal situation I'm not sure if they will be passing as much money to the county level.

Q. - Speaking of bridges, I am aware of at least two old bridges that have been saved from being scrapped for salvage and now sit on private property here in Jefferson County. Is the county open to that possibility with respect to either the old bridge on 90th Street near Nemaha Road or the old bridge along 202nd Street?

A. -1 cannot speak for the commissioners but I see no reason why the county would not sell an old bridge for its scrap value when one is being removed. However, both of the old bridges that you referred to are too large to be moved in one piece. Both bridges are over 115' long so it would require a crane and special oversized load semi in order for those structures to be saved intact. This expense would need to covered by the individual that wanted the bridge as I could not justify spending tax dollars that were not necessary for the structure's removal. I have also stated to those interested in repurposing the bridge for other uses, that if anyone wanted to purchase the steel to build another structure or modern art they could do so by purchasing the steel at its value.

Q. -1 have noticed that a number of people walk across the grass to get to the main entrance to the courthouse instead of using the sidewalk. Would you be in favor of having some sort of a fence installed around the perimeter of the courthouse block - there was a fence around the old courthouse for many years but it was there for a different reason - to help protect the lawn, especially during the summer?

A. - There was also originally a wall around the existing courthouse on the outside of the sidewalk near the building. It was removed at some point. I would have to say that a fence would change the dynamics of Old Settlers Days. This would be a subject that I would hope would be discussed at the meeting and would be reflected in the paper to see how the commissioners and/or the community felt about it.

Q. - If there is one thing you want the general public to know about you, what is it?

A. - That I understand that Jefferson County's infrastructure is not the same as some of its more urbanized neighbors but that I will strive to meet their needs and that I will strive to utilize their tax dollars in the most effective and cost efficient ways possible.

Q. - What one word best describes you as a person?

A. - Efficient.

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Original Publication Date: January 29, 2015

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