Ed. Note: As part of county government month, Ada Evening News is presenting a series on county government. The series will summarize tasks and obligations of county government offices.
District Three Commissioner Justin Roberts said there’s a lot more to being county commissioner than transportation infrastructure.
“It’s not just about roads and bridges,” Roberts said.
In addition to roads, bridges and highway infrastructure within the county, Roberts said commissioners also have to understand budgeting and appropriating funds for county offices, among other things.
“We approve all purchases for the county,” he said. “We have the ability to enter into any contract, whether that be a maintenance agreement, a contract with the city of Ada or another municipality within the county.”
Roberts said funds that go toward roads and bridges come from gas, diesel and excise tax while ad valorem taxes go toward schools, career techs, the county health department, as well as maintenance and operation of the courthouse.
“Any big road projects that we get, the Chickasaw Nation is usually backing us,” he said.
A county commissioner’s day to day business can include the health department, Agri-plex, Call-A-Ride, municipalities within the county, emergency management and volunteer fire departments
“We’ve had wild fires just about every day for the last 10 days,” he said. “We’re constantly monitoring and bringing equipment out to help contain these fires.”
Roberts said he spends a lot of time obtaining easements for road and right-of-way improvements and he is constantly trying to obtain grant money.
“All three of us sit on numerous boards and committees,” he said.
He said Pontotoc County is one of the few Oklahoma counties that opens graves at no cost, has a public transit system and an Agri-plex.
Commissioners are also helping with development of the Ada Industrial Park.
“In the next five to eight years, that could have a huge economic impact on this area,” Roberts said.
He said commissioners are also attempting to set standards and stipulations for oil and gas pipeline easements.
“Currently, we don’t have any kind of agreement in place,” he said.
New problems are constantly popping up for commissioners to deal with. One such problem is an area near Roff where people have been dumping trash.
“It’s going to cost us probably $5,000 to $6,000 in man-hours to clean that up and it comes out of our road money,” he said.
Roberts said he’s enjoyed working with the residents of Pontotoc County.
“I enjoy it because you never know from one minute to the next what you’re going to be doing,” he said.
Pontotoc County Clerk Pam Walker said her main responsibility is land record keeping.
“Anything that has to do with land records or minerals, we’ve got it,” she said. “We also do all the purchasing and the payroll for the county.”
Most of the people who come into Walker’s office every day are there because of property issues.
“Usually we help people who have bought a house or taken out a mortgage. Sometimes they have problems with their property or if a loved one has passed away, they need help trying to make that transition with their property,” she said.
Mineral activity also brings people into her office.
“Land men and attorneys come in to check records,” she said. “When there’s an increase in oil activity, we usually see an increase in traffic.”
Walker said her office is often mistaken for the court clerk’s office.
“We get a lot of calls for the court clerk and they get a lot of our calls because of that misconception,” she said.
She said her favorite thing about being county clerk is the continual challenge.
“County government is challenging,” she said. “I learn something new every day. It’s rewarding to be able to take that knowledge and help somebody with it.”
Walker said the county clerk’s office has remained in the building across 13th Street from the newly-refurbished courthouse and she’s glad to have so much room to store county records.
This series will continue on Sunday with the county assessor and court clerk’s offices.
Pontotoc County commissioners will also be holding an educational program on county government at the courthouse on Friday, April 29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To learn more or schedule a class tour, contact Janna Kelley at the OSU Extension Office at (580) 332-2153 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.