The Howard Count highway department pegged a new superintendent last week.
Amber Toll, a graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and an industry veteran with 21 years of experience in the private sector, was selected by county commissioners to head the highway department starting last week.
Toll has worked in almost every level in the field, including construction inspection and roadway design. Toll was employed American Structure Point and HWC Engineering before netting the position of superintendent.
Now, she is seeking to bring that experience to benefit Howard County.
“My goal is to first and foremost just learn this side of the industry,” Toll said. “I‘ve never worked in the municipal side of things, so it’s much different in ways. In other ways, it’s the same. We construct roads and bridges, and I’ve done that my whole life.”
For Toll, her direction of the highway department will lean more toward safety and drivability. Part of her job will be to evaluate roads and bridges, rank their safety, and decide which projects take priority over others.
Toll also said that she works with the county commissioners to see if new companies and construction projects are coming in and which roads will need to be addressed during those projects.
“We want the community to have safe travel ways. That’s first and foremost,” Toll said. “But we do definitely get calls in. People have concerns about their roads. So we do want to take that into consideration, evaluate whether that’s a concern for the whole community and what we can do about it. We also work with the commissioners. They have ideas. They know if a company is looking into our area to come in, and we work with them as well.”
A priority for not only Toll but also for the entirety of the highway department is one that is the goal of many departments: to secure funding for the next few years. Toll said that over the next few months, she will be working on applying for the Community Crossings grant, which is awarded to departments by the state throughout Indiana. Toll said that due to the shutdowns because of COVID-19, road and gas taxes are faltering, affecting the departments’ funding and therefore causing problems for current and potential projects in the county.
Toll, however, remained goal-oriented despite the setbacks.
“It’s a matter of adjusting our projects for the next couple years,” Toll said. “We can still get a lot of stuff done; it just might be at the capacity that we have in the past just because the future is a little bit unknown at this point. This year’s been pretty crazy for everybody, and I think the ramifications have been far-reaching. So we’ll just have to see how that affects our industry.
“There’s always things that have to happen. Those things don’t slow down just because COVID happened. They may slow down a little, but they don’t go away completely.”
Currently, there are a few bridge projects that are still in the design stage of planning, Toll said, and the highway department is gearing up for winter road maintenance.