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County workers backing into things

How many Island County employees does it take to back up a truck?

It's not a trick question, though one county commissioner would like it answered pronto.

A pair of damage claims involving county truck drivers backing into things they shouldn't have raised the eyebrows of Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell, who said on Monday he wonders why the passengers in each incident didn't get out to help guide the process.

"When you have two people in the truck, to me there's no excuse for that," McDowell said.

County risk manager Betty Kemp presented the damage claims to the board of commissioners on Monday, one for $2,503.88, the other for $1,682.55. "These are pricey ones," Kemp told the board.

The first and most expensive accident occurred in the Oak Harbor area on March 28, when a county dump truck with a snowplow backed into a guy wire owned by Puget Sound Energy, causing the pole to snap and dropping the lines. The second incident -- "again the backing up problem," is how Kemp prefaced it to the board -- happened April 1. A county broom truck backed into a civilian's truck while brooming sand off the road.

Following the investigation of the particulars of each incident by Kemp and county engineer Dick Snyder, Kemp recommended that the board approve the damage claims, which they did.

What worries McDowell most, he said, is not the money or what has happened but what could happen. Without proper procedure, he said, it could be a person next time instead of a power pole or another car.

"The scary part is having to explain to some grieving family why it happened," McDowell said.

An ordinance may be in order, McDowell said, though first he'll speak with Kemp about the details of each accident and whether drivers are already required to follow some sort of procedure when moving in reverse.

"If you're backing up at night or during low light hours, it seems to me there could be a county policy that if you're in a truck, not to sit on your duff whenever the driver needs to back up," McDowell said. "If you can't see, it would seem the very logical thing to do."

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