Software Simplifies Road, Bridge Record-keeping
Rifling through months – maybe even years – of records to find out when you performed maintenance on a particular road or serviced a piece of equipment can be a time-consuming, frustrating task. Many counties have simplified and enhanced the way they do business by using computer software designed for road and bridge departments.
Precinct Tracker, designed with the needs of smaller counties in mind, and Visual R&B Integrated Management System are two options for counties wanting to make such a change.
Those who use software in their road and bridge departments say it makes their jobs easier.
Pat McGallion, Hardin County commissioner, said, “I can ask a question and, with the push of a button, the answer can be pulled up.”
This is particularly helpful, she said, if a constituent calls. The county can easily see when and what maintenance occurred on a certain road.
Hardin County uses the Precinct Tracker software, which had its beginnings in the county. Suzanne Airhart, owner of Precinct Tracker, had filled in at the commissioner’s office and realized how much work was going into record-keeping – and how difficult keeping up with paper records could be.
Airhart developed a simple software program, which eventually evolved into Precinct Tracker. The software now is used in other small counties to help them track service requests, record incidents such as flooding, keep up with equipment maintenance, and the like.
“Precinct Tracker is designed to appeal to those who don’t want or need the extreme end of software,” she said. “Counties can improve their accounting techniques without an accounting wizard or a huge program.”
Among the benefits for counties, said Airhart, are being able to document work and organize records. All this gives a county the ability to control costs, she said, by having records of material and equipment expenses, knowing which roads require more maintenance, and having a good idea of what a particular road is costing.
The software is flexible in the amount of detail a county can input, allowing for customization. Some counties only want a rough sketch of what happened on a particular day, while others want great detail, Airhart said.
Hardin County uses the software for daily work documentation and producing work orders. The county also uses the software to track road signs and oil changes, create invoice vouchers, and locate lines for digs.
Gina Lowe, assistant to McGallion, said, “You can’t keep up with all pen and paper anymore.”
She said the software is easy to use and has been quite a time-saver.
Bobby Smith, Polk County commissioner, said his county uses Precinct Tracker to record such things as fuel usage, lasting time of a road surface, and maintenance.
Smith said he encouraged counties still using paper records to consider software.
“We need to get into the 21st century,” he added.
Keeping up with records is another big plus for using software, especially as counties come under scrutiny from requirements of GASB34.
The enhanced documentation will help counties provide better service and watch costs, said Airhart.
The Visual R&B IMS software was developed by CompuLink for use by county road and bridge, street, highway and public works departments. The software is available in Texas through NET Data Corp.
Visual R&B is module-based software, which allows users to select only the modules they want and bring more online later. Modules include planning, budgeting and control, instant graphic analysis, and one-click reporting and analysis. Culvert, sign and pavement modules also are available for road and bridge departments.
D’Anne Chaney, of NET Data, said users enter data only once, but then it is available with one click for reporting, planning, forecasting, budgeting and decision-making.
The software allows counties to track equipment maintenance, personnel, inventory, and work orders. Contractors/vendors, inventory transfers, and road/street profiles also can be tracked.
Beth Wisenbaker, Hopkins County commissioner, said her county just recently made the switch from paper- to computer-based records with Visual R&B.
“We had a lot of information in our heads that we wanted to be able to pass to other commissioners who might follow behind us,” Wisenbaker said.
She said the software is compatible with the Federal Emergency Management Association and will speed up responses in the event of a disaster. Because all the information is entered for work orders and the like, the county no longer will have to recreate records for FEMA.
Passing hard data on to decision-makers to help them make informed decisions also is something Wisenbaker said she hopes will come from having the software.
In the case of overweight trucks, she said the county will have documentation to show legislators how much time and money was spent to repair a road. And because the software allows photos to be tied to it, the county also can show “before and after” photos of damage caused by overweight trucks.
Having only had the software a short time, Wisenbaker said the county is still learning what it can and can’t do.
“Like any software program, you need to learn to make it work for you,” she said. But the benefits are weighing heavily.
“Five years from now, no commissioner will want to be without it,” Wisenbaker said.
To find out more about Precinct Tracker, visit www.precincttracker.com or call (409) 246-4802. For Visual R&B, call Bill Moser at 800-465-5127 or visit www.netdatacorp.net.
By Tammy Wishard