Covering 333 square miles, and with a population of approximately 11,800 people, Decatur County is among the smaller counties in Tennessee. However, this predominantly rural county southwest of Nashville still has over 600 miles of road to maintain – and the Decatur County Highway Department is working to improve all of them.
Highway Superintendent Robert Montgomery, who took office in 2014, says, “One of my major initiatives is to repair and resurface all our roads; it’s an ongoing and challenging process.”
Montgomery is a Decatur County native whose father Glen owned a custom dozer work company for many years. As Robert relates, “He bought his first machine in 1966, and ran the company until he passed away in 2008. I’ve been around dozers and graders since I was a child, and in fact I ran a grader for the county myself in the mid-1970s.” After his father’s passing, Robert ran the family business until he was approached to run for the Highway Superintendent’s position.
Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Decatur County boasts many opportunities for fishing, hunting, swimming and river recreation. The Highway Department, which has 15 employees, is headquartered in Decaturville, which is the county seat. In addition to the ongoing efforts to improve all county roads, the Department has a busy schedule of storm debris cleanup, digging ditches, cutting shoulders, and loading gravel.
The Department has several Cat machines in its fleet, including some older machines which are still in productive use. More recently, they have added a 140H motor grader and – in late 2017 – a new 420F2 backhoe loader.
“We needed to replace an older machine that had a lot of hours on it,” Montgomery reports. “We chose the 420F, with a full range of options included – because of all we do with the machine. It’s used every day; after a storm, it’s the first machine that gets mobile. The 4-in-1 bucket is a very necessary option for us, and the hydraulic thumb is also especially useful.”
In adding their new 420F2, the Department utilized State of Tennessee contracts which were awarded to Thompson Machinery governmental customers. These contracts (Contract 048439: Heavy Equipment and 050609: Highway Maintenance Equipment) allow state and local entities to configure machines to fit their application needs, while receiving a discount off list price, using a streamlined process.
As Montgomery explains, “Using the state contracts means we didn’t have to worry about bidding, which adds so much time to the process. We were able to specify the exact machine, the exact configuration that we wanted.”
The Decatur County Highway Department relies on the parts and service capabilities of Thompson Machinery’s Camden, TN branch store, Montgomery says. “The Camden store is very convenient to us, and they give us excellent parts and service support. Wesley Sparks is an excellent parts person – he can find whatever part you need. And we know that if Thompson doesn’t have the part we need in stock, they will typically have it for us by the next morning.
“We do a lot of our maintenance and repairs ourselves, but if it’s a large job or a very specialized job, we will take the machine to the Camden service department. And we definitely make use of Thompson’s excellent field service.”