Road commission names interim manager

Professional engineer from Ionia County will make $100 per hour

Wayne Schoonover

BEAR LAKE — Wayne Schoonover, a licensed professional engineer from Ionia County, will lead the Manistee County Road Commission for the next two months as the board searches for a permanent manager.

“It would be a wonderful thing if we could have an engineer/manager,” commented board member Annie Hooghart at Thursday’s special road commission meeting. “(Schoonover) is an engineer and has worked for a number of road commissions. It is very important that we get good leadership even in the interim because, in the interim, there are a lot of projects that we need help with.”

The road commission board is searching for a permanent manager to replace Jerry Peterson, who resigned from the position following a board vote against renewing his contract. He accepted a job as manager of the joint Jackson and Calhoun county road department.

The road commission is advertising for a manager, a person who must be a licensed professional engineer or have the ability to obtain that certification within six months. Resumes will be accepted through Sep. 5. Board members will interview the top candidates in public meetings during the month of September, with hopes of having a new manager by late September or early October.

Schoonover spent 12 years as a professional engineer with the Michigan Department of Transportation, then worked for the Ionia and Berrien county road departments, serving as the Berrien County Road Commission manager before that road department broke its contract with him early this year.

Schoonover is certified in soil erosion control, a qualification that Peterson had but no other current road commission employee does.

As interim manager, Schoonover will command a salary of $100 per hour and work approximately 30 hours a week. He plans to commute twice weekly from his home in Ionia County, a three-hour drive for which he will be paid. The road commission also will pay for his lodging.

Chairman William Eckhardt recommended Schoonover, who attended the meeting and addressed the board as well as members of the public.

“As a professional engineer, I’ve got the ability to sign off on contracts with MDOT,” Schoonover told them. “I’ve got a lot of road design and road construction experience.”

While Peterson has a civil engineering background, he is not a licensed professional engineer, and the road commission contracted with engineering consulting firms for that expertise.

“We’re getting a professional engineer, someone qualified, with former road commission experience and managerial experience (with a road commission),” said Eckhardt. “You’re not just going to find that anywhere.”

The board voted unanimously to hire Schoonover as interim manager, though some members were only seeing the engineer’s qualifications for the first time at the meeting.

Initially, two members — James Russell and John Miller Jr. — argued that the road commission could manage for two months without a manager, with office staff and foremen taking on extra responsibilities.

However, chief foreman Bill Diesing told the board that he doesn’t have the qualifications or knowledge to deal with some specialized problems, such as flooding culverts, that must be taken care of immediately.

Schoonover will start on Monday.

At the meeting, Bruce Davedeit, heavy equipment operator at the road commission for the past 28 years, expressed interest in becoming the permanent manager.

Eckhardt told him his resume would be considered with all others in September, but also informed him that he doesn’t have the necessary qualifications — Davedeit is not a licensed professional engineer.

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