After working for the people of DeKalb County as their Road Supervisor for almost 24 years, Kenny Edge has decided the time has come to retire when his current term expires August 31.
The six term incumbent has announced that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2014.
"They (supporters) beg me every day to run again. It's not that I don't love them and don't want to do the work. It's just I'm not as young as I used to be. I've enjoyed working for them (people of the county). I'm still their friend. I just feel like this is a time in my life that I need to retire and do the things I want to do," said Edge in an interview with WJLE Thursday.
Edge was first elected Road Supervisor in 1990 and he was re-elected in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010. Prior to 1990, Edge served the county in other capacities. "I've got 43 years in working for DeKalb County and I've enjoyed every bit of it. (Then County Judge) Billy J. LaFever hired me in 1971 when the new courthouse and new school houses were being built. I did the maintenance and electrical work. He wanted me to do all the mechanical work so I worked for the county as well as the school system together up until 1990 when I ran for this office," he said.
In spite of tight budgets, Edge said he has been able to manage his resources over the years to maintain as many roads and bridges as possible. "The roads in DeKalb County are better than they have ever been. Almost all roads are either paved or oiled and chipped but there are certain roads you can't spend that kind of money to upgrade, knowing when the first flood comes it is going to destroy it. But basically all of the roads are in good shape," said Edge.
"The bridges are basically in real good shape. Since I've been in office, I don't know how many federal bridge programs I've participated in. The last big one I built was on Smith Fork. I believe it was a $1.1 million project. We've built bridges across the county including several under the hill because most of the water problems are under the hill," he said.
Edge said he appreciates the support he has received from county mayors and county commissions over the years in helping the road department fund certain projects. " They have been good to work with me. They bought me a new wheel loader for the crusher and a new road grader in 1995. I also borrowed a million dollars and paved forty miles of road across this county. It took me ten years at $100,000 a month to pay it back but I've paid it all back," he said.
Asked if he had any regrets , Edge said he wishes he could have had the money to hot mix more roads. "Everybody loves hot mix and I do too. I'd like to have done more asphalt work instead of oil and chipping. I'd hot mix every road in this county if I had the money to do it. The average life of a good paved road is twenty years before you need to put a top on it. The average life of an oil and chipped road is about eight years. We (road department) can oil and chip a road, but we can't hot mix it because we have to contract it out. We don't have the equipment. Right now it costs right around $100,000 to pave a road twenty feet wide, two and a half inches deep, a mile long," said Edge.
"My total budget (revenues) is less than two million dollars. I carry over about a half a million dollars every year (fund balance) and budget it. I'll average $120,000 to $130,000 of new money (revenue) each month. I get it monthly. But if you bought $130,000 worth of hot mix each month then you wouldn't have enough to pay your hands, buy fuel, or do anything. You've got to keep your operation going," said Edge.
By saving where he could, Edge said he has been able to hot mix a few more miles of roads while meeting other needs of the department. "You've got to save as much as you can during the year so that maybe you can hot mix five or six miles of road. Sometimes you have to do that over a two year period. It just depends on what breakdowns you have or what equipment you need to buy. The last two new dump trucks I bought cost $121,000 each. Tires are also expensive. It's hard to operate on what money we get especially with the economy like it is," he said.
For the 2013-14 fiscal year, the DeKalb County Road Department is budgeted to receive almost two million in revenues, including over $1.4 million from its largest source, state gas tax revenues and more than $400,000 from the state aid program. The county budgets three cents of the property tax rate or $128,860 along with a mineral severance tax of $15,474. The department's fund balance (carry over from last year) was more than $378,000. Total appropriations for this budget year are projected to be $2.1 million.
Edge still makes use of the county rock crusher but it's mostly used on a seasonal basis now with a smaller staff to help man the department. "The rock crusher is in excellent shape. We use it but I don't run it 100% of the time because my work force has gone from twenty five to fifteen employees. They crush in the fall and winter but as soon as the grass gets up, I'll have them go to mowing," he said.
Like all public officials, Edge has his critics but he believes most people appreciates the job he has done. "I try to help everybody. I try to listen to them and try to do everything they ask me to do. I realize it's their highway department. Anybody who calls here and they need a tile put in, if they're building a house, I'll put them a tile in and fix them a driveway. I do it for everybody. It don't matter who they are or where they live in the county. I gravel every road to every cemetery. I always have. I fix everybody an entrance off a county road anywhere they want to" Edge continued.
In recent years, state auditors have noted findings in yearly audit reports concerning such practices by the county road department but Edge defends his work for the public. "I get wrote up saying you can't do that. It's frustrating how that the state has such a problem with me putting gravel or a tile in a driveway, but sees nothing wrong with the state putting down hot mix and installing guardrails to a dead end on private property in the midst of a cedar thicket on the side of a hill along side a state highway (referring to property at the foot of Snow Hill on Highway 70). I wish they would operate under the same law they want me to," he said.
Edge said he is thankful to the people of DeKalb County for supporting him all these years. "I want to thank all the people of this county for their trust in me and for voting for me. I love them all and I'll still help them anyway I can," he said.
As for his retirement, Edge said he has no particular plans. "I've got a farm I can play around on and do like some of the rest of them, run out here to Hardees every now and then and get me some coffee and a ham and biscuit," concluded Edge.