BENTON -- Although a road is accepted by the county as a public road, that doesn't necessarily mean the county is responsible for maintaining that road.
Scott County commissioners discussed county road conditions and road responsibilities at their regular meeting on Thursday with Bob Laseter, who lives off County Road 524, just north of Sikeston and west of Interstate 55. Laseter, citing dust problems, is asking commissioners for the county to pave Laseter Drive, the public road he lives on. The total length is about 1,000 feet.
"I drove all the roads all over the county," said Laseter. He said that he thought his road was one of the worst and asked why so many roads were black topped, but his was not.
Jamie Burger, presiding commissioner, pointed out the county's first priorities are the 18 dedicated county roads.
At times, homeowners take the lead, too.
"Others who live on public roads pay for it themselves," said Burger. "When you drive around the county and see these blacktop roads, it does not mean the county paid for all these roads."
He offered to set up a time to drive the county roads with Laseter to explain these circumstances. Laseter declined and said that since he had already driven the roads, it was a waste of both time and gas.
Commissioners said that, recently, roads that had been paved with chip and seal were covered in blacktop. This was done so the base wouldn't be lost, Burger said.
"But from the time I've been here, the policy has been that there's not any new black topping on roads," said Dennis Ziegenhorn, commissioner.
Later in the meeting, Burger pointed out that, as a whole, Scott County has a higher percentage of black topped roads than any of the surrounding areas.
Commissioners said there is no favoritism when it comes to the roads.
Ron McCormick, commissioner, also pointed out that, in order to be fair to all county residents, the county should pave all roads that aren't currently -- not just Laseter's. "If we do yours, we'll have to do all the others, too," he said, noting that it's about 150 total miles.
"Then do it," said Laseter. But commissioners quickly said that isn't possible. There is a budget of approximately $354,000 to maintain 325 miles of road.
"We can't spend money we don't have," said Ziegenhorn.
Burger agreed. "How can you go out and build more roads if you can't maintain the ones you have?" he asked.
The road situation is worse than usual due to recent weather conditions. And for that reason, commissioners said they are currently taking inventory of the status of county roads. "The flooding impact will probably be much worse than the ice," said Burger. And money is already tight, without recent disasters.
In related news, commissioners approved the purchase of a digital camera by Highway Department Supervisor Norman Brant, and asked that he buy it within the county, for documentation.
"To receive funding assistance (from the federal or state emergency management association) you've got to have everything documented," said Ziegenhorn.
As the commissioners were on the scene of some of the worst flooded areas, especially in Caney on Wednesday, they said they got a lot of on-the-job disaster training to coincide with the National Incident Management System courses they were taking. In fact, the instructor for the course helped coordinate efforts over this week, while officials were scheduled to take another course.
Officials also praised volunteers through the county for their help in weathering Tuesday and Wednesday's storm.
"I makes me proud to live in Scott County when we have disasters like we had the last two days and with the ice storm, when you see the resilience of the people in the county," said Burger. He noted that those from all over the county, not just areas affected, pitched it.
"We had a lot of volunteers," agreed McCormick. "That was a sight to see, all of the people that were there sandbagging and trying to save that levee."
Inmates also helped bag sand, and Burger said they were "very agreeable and accommodating to do it."
Also during the meeting, Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, stopped by on her way back to Sikeston after a morning meeting with the Scott City Chamber of Commerce. She informed the commission of the organization's efforts to reorganize, which they discussed.
"There was a group of seven that met this morning to determine how they want to be perceived," said Marshall. "They have a good core, they just need to re-examine their focus -- times have changed."
Marshall said the individuals have some good ideas, in addition to strong financial support from the business community in Scott City.
"It was a very productive meeting," she said.