A reorganization of the Texas Department of Transportation will affect some employees in the Brownwood District office, but no plans are being made to close it, a TxDOT official here said.
“The organizational chart did change, and some of that is being adjusted daily, but these changes are not going to close the office,” Sandra Parker, public information officer for the Brownwood district, said Wednesday. “That’s not the plan… The plan is to streamline the department’s operations - to make them more efficient, open and transparent.”
Parker said the reorganization, designed to reduce duplication throughout the transportation department, “is going to impact some people, but it will improve production and efficiency over time.”
The engineering and maintenance functions probably won’t be affected a great deal, but all other functions considered to be support have been identified as possibilities for regionalization, Parker said. Some of the employees affected may have to relocate or apply for vacancies elsewhere to retain similar jobs, while others will be able to stay at the same office but with different duties or with different supervisors.
“It’s not a slash and burn process,” Parker said of the personnel changes. “The department is really trying to make a place for everybody. They’re willing to retrain employees if necessary. For some folks, this is a good opportunity to move up in the department, especially for those in a smaller office like this.
“The department is making an effort to create opportunities as much as possible,” Parker added. “But we’re going to have to change the ways we do some things.”
The department is in the first phase of its restructuring that will take effect in the fiscal year beginning in September, she said. TxDOT will create four regional offices in Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Lubbock. Brownwood’s district, which includes nine counties, will be in the northern district based in Fort Worth.
The department ran into budget problems when a statewide $1 billion accounting error resulted in planning more projects than funding could cover. The department is also faced with escalating costs for fuel and construction materials.
Meanwhile, motorists are driving fewer miles and burning less fuel, which reduces the amount of revenue available for transportation projects.
“There will be lots of focus on maintenance,” Parker said of the reorganization. “We’re not going to be able to rehabilitate a lot of the roads. If we can hold them together longer, we will be able to save on that. Of course, we don’t know what the legislature might do.”
TxDOT will undergo the “sunset” review process this year, and some lawmakers have been critical of the way the department is organized and about some of its decisions and proposals for the future.
Parker said the department has been in need of implementing many of the steps now under way, and some have been under way for a while. Still, a time comes when more significant changes arrive, “and this is one of those times,” Parker said.
The Brownwood District had 231 employees working at the first of this year, Parker said, and that number is now down to 225.
The number of projects in the area has dwindled as a result of funding limitations.
“When Highway 67 (West Commerce) is finished, I don’t believe we have a single project on the horizon in the City of Brownwood,” Parker said. “It;s been a while since that was the case.”
Projects are still planned on Early Boulevard, however, and on the highway between Brownwood and Bangs.
Part of the department’s reorganization will be expanding the role of the 10-member design team in Brownwood so it will be able to serve areas beyond this area. Other design teams throughout the department will also be available to work on projects around the state.
“They are already designing a project from Waco,” Parker said. “It’s about organizing the work and producing it in a more efficient manner. They’re not saying you’re going to lose a job in a district, but you might lose some positions. We’re trying to improve services, work smarter and at less expense.”