Oxford hires civil engineer
by Eddie Burkhalter
Feb 20, 2014 | 8416 views |  0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rusty Gann
Rusty Gann
The city of Oxford will, for the first time, have a civil engineer on its payroll beginning Monday.

Rusty Gann, an Oxford High graduate and resident of the city, most recently worked as Calhoun County’s assistant engineer. He will begin work Monday for the city, said Oxford Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard.

“He’s an Oxford guy, and we’re glad to have him. We’ve needed him,” Hubbard said.

As a fast-growing city — Oxford nearly doubled in size between 2000 and 2010, to more than 21,000 residents — having a civil engineer is a necessity, city officials said. Oxford has grown geographically as well, annexing portions of Bynum, Wellborn and Coldwater over the years. Oxford now stretches into Calhoun, Cleburne and Talladega counties.

Fred Denney, Oxford’s project manager, said Gann will be an asset to the city, which has gone without an engineer for too long.

Civil engineers are tasked with all aspects of municipal infrastructure, from the design and construction of roads, bridges and sidewalks to lighting and water and sewer networks.

Denney, himself an electrical engineer by training, explained that Gann will be useful as the city looks to several upcoming road projects.

“We’ve been wanting to hire one for several years now,” Denney said.

Attempts Thursday to reach Gann for comment were unsuccessful.

“Phenomenal. Impeccable,” said Calhoun County engineer Brian Rosenbalm, speaking of Gann’s work with the county. “This is a great young engineer. Obviously, we hate to see him go, but we wish him well.”

Rosenbalm said Gann worked with the county for about the last 13 years.

Unlike Anniston and Jacksonville, Oxford does not employee a city planner, whose job it is to plan for larger-picture land use and road construction, but city officials have said they’d rather have an engineer.

Attempts to reach Council President Steven Waits for comment Thursday also were unsuccessful, but in a March 2013 interview with The Star he expressed a desire for the city to hire an engineer rather than a planner.

An engineer would be able to manage projects through to the end, Waits said last year, and have a better understanding of what the city needs.

As city project manager, Denney has handled many of the aspects typically done by a civil engineer, managing road and various other construction projects, such as the recent renovation of the city’s civic center and construction of the performing arts center.

“We’ve needed a city engineer for a long time. He’ll be good for us,” Denney said.

Councilman Mike Henderson said he believes Gann can help solve the city’s pressing issues, such as stormwater drainage problems.

Residents on the 100 block of Davis Avenue in the Blue Pond subdivision have long complained of drainage problems that fill their lawns and driveways with water during heavy rains. Those heavy rains also flooded portions of downtown Oxford last year, overflowing into businesses along Main Street.

“We’ve got some issues right now that we’ve patched, in terms of drainage and ditches, but maybe he can develop a plan to do those correctly,” Henderson said.

The city is currently in talks with FedEx over concerns about a new shipping facility the company is building on Fish Hatchery Lane in Eastaboga. Residents worried over tractor trailer trucks navigating the narrow roadway contacted the city, and in January the council agreed to pay for a traffic study to determine how to solve the problem.

“Gann could help us decide which is the best solution,” Henderson said. “We’re going to put him to work. We’re excited to have him.”

Staff Writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @burkhalter_star.

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