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Bureaucrats could stymie road maintenance plan

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

If the county had its way, inmates would be used to help pick up the slack in road maintenance resulting from state transportation cuts. But bureaucracy could throw a wrench into those plans. Pulaski County Board of Supervisors are seeking permission from Virginia Department of Transportation to use work program inmates from New River Valley Regional Jail to mow and cut brush along county roads. County Administrator Peter Huber, Massie District Supervisor Andy McCready, Sheriff Jim Davis and Deputy Jamie Radcliffe (who oversees the inmate labor program) recently met with area VDOT officials to discuss the proposal. Monday night, McCready told fellow board members the meeting “didn’t go as smoothly” as everyone had hoped it would. “While the troops in the field felt very good about using inmate labor to help supplement their needs, the bureaucracy above was a little tough to get along with,” McCready said. Nonetheless, he said, VDOT did concede to inmates performing one brush-cutting project as a test. “It would be safe to say everything revolves around Richmond. Richmond has the best ideas and they considerably tie the hands of our local (VDOT) folks,” McCready explained. “Although our local folks would very much like to utilize inmate labor if they could, we are doing this one trial project on Viscoe Road.” He said a clear line of communications between the local VDOT office and Pulaski County was established at the meeting to allow the scheduling of the test project. Chairman Joe Sheffey asked if additional projects will be scheduled if the Viscoe Road project is successful. McCready said it’s possible, noting he had “high hopes” inmates could be used to “make up for the shortage of state (transportation) employees, but we didn’t quite get the traction we hoped we would get.”