Between The Bridges
Did You Know?
Ohio was admitted to the union in 1803-and one of the original offices created by the first General Assembly was that of county surveyor, from which the county engineer’s office has evolved. When a new county was created, the Legislature appointed a court of common pleas, which fixed the time and place for a county-wide election. At first, only three offices were filled by these elections: Commissioners (3), sheriff, and coroner. The court appointed the county surveyor, recorder, prosecuting attorney, and clerk. In those early days of the state, the office of county surveyor was a very important position. As early as 1785, Ohio had been the laboratory in which the Public Lands rectangular survey system was developed; and well into the 1800’s the clarification of land titles and boundaries was the major function of the county surveyor. After 1820, however, the state became increasingly caught up in the "internal improvements" movement. Some of the county surveyors were involved with building Ohio’s network of canals, and virtually all were called upon to spend more and more time developing the state’s integrated system of good roads. Due to the increasing responsibilities of the position, in 1831 the Legislature moved to make the office of county surveyor elective, for a term of three years. By late in the 19th Century the county surveyor was almost totally involved with building and maintaining roads, bridges, and drainage ditches- but he still received no salary, being paid an average of $5.00 per day only on those days when actually employed. In 1915, Legislation established a salary and the responsibility of also being resident engineer for the State Highway Department. The year 1928 saw the county engineer emerging as the public official you know today. In that year he was elected to a four (4) year term which started on "the first Monday in January after his election". Then on August 30, 1935, the title of the office was changed to "County Engineer". Only persons who hold registration certificates of the State of Ohio as both "Registered Professional Engineer" and "Registered Surveyor" may actually qualify for the office of County Engineer. Although specifically exempted from engineering responsibilities on public buildings, he is the engineer for all public improvement under the authority of the board of commissioner with and for the county. Almost 20% of Ohio’s County Engineers hold advanced or additional degrees. As a group, they represent over 1700 years of public works experience. This averages to 20 years per engineer. On average they have held licenses as Professional Surveyor for 21 years. Duties of Today's County Engineer Ohio County Engineers are recognized leaders in the nation because of the professionalism and innovations relating to the maintenance of highways and bridges. Today, the elected County Engineer is sworn to "perform for the county all duties authorized or declared by law to be done by a Civic Engineer or Surveyor". County Engineers are responsible for more than 27,000 bridges; 29,000 highway; and manage budgets between $2,500,000 and $40,000,000 annually. The fact that the position is elected and the fact that the gasoline taxes and license plate fees are dedicated to the repair and maintenance of highways and bridges by the state’s constitution, allows these elected professionals to utilize the scarce resources in an efficient and professional manner. There are four district highway systems in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is responsible for the 19,000-mile State Highway System. The Township Trustees collectively oversee the maintenance of the Township Highway System with its 39,000 miles of roads. Municipalities maintain the streets and alleys within their boundaries, which together would span over 20,000 miles. The 29,000-miles County Highway is the responsibility of Ohio’s 88 County Engineers. The County Engineer works with the County Commissioners and Township Trustees to carry out a wide variety of obligations. County Highways: The County Engineer is responsible for the maintenance, repair, widening, resurfacing, and (re) construction of pavements and bridges in the County Highway System. Maintenance duties include: traffic control, safety projects, mowing and snow removal. Township Highways: The county Engineer serves as an engineering advisor to the Township Trustees for the maintenance, widening and repair of their highways. Bridges: The County Engineer is fully responsible for the bridges on both the County and the Township Highway Systems, and may also be charged with the upkeep of bridges within municipalities, including some that are part of the State Highway System. The County Engineer performs the annual inspection and evaluation of the condition and load carrying capacity of each bridge. The status regulating this duty requires a uniform method of procedure and record keeping. The County Engineer participates in county and regional planning commissions and provides tax map drafting services for the county. In unincorporated areas, the County Engineer may also be involved in the establishment and maintenance of petitioned and assessed ditches, sidewalks, and county airports. The County Engineer may also serve as County Sanitary Engineer, working with the County Commissioners to supervise the construction of sewer and water lines. The approval and operation of land-fills and incinerators may also function of the County Engineers office.