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Ohio's County Engineers

Today, the elected County Engineer is sworn to "perform for the county all duties authorized or declared by law to be done by a Civic Engineer or Surveyor." Although specifically exempt from engineering duties affecting public buildings, the County Engineer is the engineer for all public improvements under the authority of the board of commissioners within and for the county. For example, in Ohio, County Engineers are responsible for more than 27,000 bridges; 29,000 miles of highways; and manage budgets between $2,500,000 and $40,000,000 annually.

Ohio has the most rigorous standards in the United States for qualifying it Professional County Engineers. Ohio requires its County Engineers to be both fully licensed as a "Registered Professional Engineer" and a "Registered Professional Surveyor" for the office of County Engineer.

As a group, Ohio's County Engineers are recognized leaders in the nation because of their professionalism and innovations relating to the maintenance of highways and bridges. Ohio's requirement for professional licensing in both Engineering and Surveying, the fact that the position is elected and the fact that the gasoline taxes and license plate fees are dedicated to the repair and maintenance of highways and bridges by the state's constitution, allows these elected professionals to utilize the scarce resources in an efficient and professional manner. Almost 20% of Ohio's County Engineers hold advanced or additional degrees. As a group, they represent over 1700 years of public works experience. This averages to 20 years per engineer. On average they have held licenses as Professional Surveyors for 21 years.

Responsibilities of Today's County Engineer

There are four district highway systems in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is responsible for the 19,000-mile State Highway System. The Township Trustees collectively oversee the maintenance of the Township Highway System with its 39,000 miles of roads. Municipalities maintain the streets and alleys within their boundaries, which together would span over 20,000 miles. The 29,000-miles County Highway System is, of course, the responsibility of Ohio's 88 County Engineers. The County Engineer works with the County Commissioners and Township Trustees to carry out a wide variety of obligations.

County Highways: The County Engineer is responsible for the maintenance, repair, widening, resurfacing, and (re) construction of pavements and bridges in the County Highway System. Maintenance duties include traffic control, safety projects, mowing and snow removal.

Township Highways: The County Engineer serves as an engineering advisor to the Township Trustees for the maintenance, widening and repair of their highways.

Bridges: The County Engineer is fully responsible for the bridges on both the County and the Township Highway Systems, and may also be charged with the upkeep of bridges within municipalities, including some that are part of the State Highway System. The County Engineer performs the annual inspection and evaluation of the condition and load carrying capacity of each bridge. The status regulating this duty requires a uniform method of procedure and record keeping.

The County Engineer participates in county and regional planning commissions and provides tax map drafting services for the county. In unincorporated areas, the County Engineer may also be involved in the establishment and maintenance of petitioned and assessed ditches, sidewalks, and even county airports. The County Engineer may also serve as County Sanitary Engineer, working with the County Commissioners to supervise the construction of sewer and water lines. The approval and operation of land-fills and incinerators may also function of the County Engineer's office.

History of the County Engineer In Ohio

The office of the County Engineer evolved from the important role played by the County Surveyor in the first decades of Ohio's statehood.

As early as 1785, Ohio served as a "laboratory" for the development of the Public Lands rectangular survey system, and well into the 1800's, the County Surveyor was charged with the tremendous task of clarifying land titles and boundaries. After 1820, a movement for "internal improvements" swept through the state, and County Surveyors became increasingly involved in transportation-related projects: specifically in the development of canals and roads. By the late 19th century, the major duty of the County Surveyor was the building and maintenance of roads, bridges, and drainage ditches.

The office of County Surveyor was established by the first General Assembly following the admission of Ohio to the Union in 1803. Whenever a new county was created, the County Surveyor, Recorder, Prosecuting Attorney, and Clerk were appointed by the legislature. County Surveyors were paid only a per diem wage ($5.00 in late 1800's) for those days when they were actually employed.

In 1831, the legislature voted to make the office elective because of the increased responsibilities it entailed. The law stated that a County Surveyor would serve a term of three years, "if he so qualified." Legislation passed in 1915 established a salary and conferred on the County Surveyor the title of "resident Engineer for the State Highway Department." In 1928, the term of office was lengthened from three years to four. Then on August 30, 1935, the title was changed to "County Engineer."

Today, only persons who hold registration certificates from the State of Ohio as a "Registered Professional Engineer" and "Registered Professional Surveyor" may hold the office of County Engineer.


Lorain County Engineer
Ken Carney P.E., P.S.
247 Hadaway St.
Elyria, OH 44035
Elyria: (440) 329-5586
Lorain: (440) 244-6261
Fax: (440) 329-5587
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