The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization took a step forward in filling its vacant director position when it signed an interlocal agreement with Grayson County Wednesday. Under the agreement, the MPO and the county will split the cost of hiring a new employee who will serve both as MPO director and county engineer.
“By sharing the costs, the county of Grayson gets engineering services which we don’t already have,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, who serves on the MPO Policy Board, said.
This position will replace Karl Welzenbach, the previous MPO director, who stepped down from the MPO last month to pursue an MPO position in Oregon.
Under the arrangement, the MPO will provide up to $80,000 toward the salary and benefits of the new MPO director and county engineer, with the county providing the remaining half. As the MPO is financed using federal funds, Magers said Grayson taxpayers will effectively be getting an engineer for half the price.
The move comes as the MPO is currently slated to receive between $8 million and $10 million annually for roadway improvement projects in coming years. In order to be prepared for this influx of funding, the MPO and county officials want to be prepared and at the front of the line with projects ready to start, Magers said.
In order to receive funding for these improvements, Magers said the projects need to be overseen by a professional engineer. Last year the MPO signed an agreement between the cities of Sherman and Denison to use their city engineers for this. However, Kyle Hockersmith, former engineer for the city of Denison, left the city for a new job shortly after the agreement was signed.
“Basically our Plan A didn’t work,” Magers said.
Magers said this will be the first time Grayson County has had a engineer dedicated to county-wide projects. While this wasn’t needed previously, expected growth in the future has made the position necessary.
“As Grayson County continues to urbanize, we are going to need the skill set a county engineer brings,” he said.
In September, the county posted the job opening and received 16 responses. Of these, only two met the majority of the requirements of the position, Magers said. With the need for both transit experience and an engineering background, Magers said the position required an advanced skill set.
Of the two remaining candidates, Magers said one has since taken a position elsewhere, leaving one sole contender for the position. Despite this, Sherman Mayor David Plyler, who serves as the incoming MPO Board chairman, said there has not been an official hire for the position yet.
Following the resolution passing, members of the board voiced their approval of the agreement and said it was a win for everyone throughout the county.
“This puts in place an engineer that views our entire region, which ultimately benefits everyone,” Plyler said.