If Mala Brooks was looking to make a splash in her first meeting as a member of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, she made a big one.
Brooks made motions to remove the sitting county engineer and the county attorney.
Both were approved. The contracts for each of these positions, along with several others, are considered on the first meeting of the new supervisor’s term every four years, but can also be taken up at every meeting after as well.
The board’s vote to switch to an out-of-county firm, IMS Engineers, from a long-serving, home-grown firm is particularly disturbing.
Since 1988, a member of the Hooker family engineering firm has served as county engineer. Mr. Mark Hooker Sr. started then as county engineer and his son took over in 1999.
Now a large firm with offices in five different cities in the United States as well as one in Ethiopia will handle the engineering projects for Washington County.
In the last four years, more than $19 million in projects have been funneled through Hooker Engineering in the form of 19 bridge projects, improvements to Reed Road, North Theobald Street and Producers Road.
Not to put too fine a point on it, all of the fees for engineering on any projects the Hookers’ firm would have handled will now be going out of the county. The owners of the firm and their employees are Washington County tax payers.
And, unless things change, 30 years of intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of the county’s infrastructure will be unavailable.
While many decry the state of our infrastructure — we at the newspaper included — it’s not on the backs of the engineers. They can only work on projects they are funded or can find funding for.
Brooks also took the opportunity to recommend the lawyer for the county attorney position who is representing her in the suit brought by Jesse Amos contesting her election to the Supervisor’s seat she currently holds.
Mr. Willie Griffin takes over from the Campbell Delong firm. One of the firm’s attorneys, Frank Power, served as the board’s counsel for four years before the firm was retained as counsel for the last eight years. Griffin has served as board counsel for previous terms.
We know what it feels like to lose big jobs and clients, but it especially hurts when the client is the government of the county you have called home and done business in for most of your life.
And especially when there’s no notice.
We also know the board can reconsider this decision and should do so. If you believe they should vote to keep as much business as possible in Washington County, reach out and let them know.