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Commission needs more money for road repairs

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mississippi County news

CHARLESTON -- Money to improve the Dorena-Hickman Ferry is appreciated, but county officials wish money to improve roads leading to the ferry landing could be found.

During their regular meeting Thursday, Mississippi County commissioners discussed the recent announcement of a $1 million federal transportation grant for the ferry.

The money is to be used to purchase a new, larger barge to increase the ferry's loading capacity.

"The money comes in 2007," said Commissioner Homer Oliver.

Meanwhile, both county and state highways leading to the ferry are in a serious state of disrepair.

Commissioners said it would be nice if the feds could put just $50,000 into the roads leading up to the ferry.

Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said it costs about $50,000 now just to blacktop a mile with cold mix asphalt. He said to do a mile of hot mix asphalt may cost as much as $65,000 to $75,000. He estimated it would cost about $150,000 to properly fix the deteriorated roads used to get to the ferry.

While repairs are needed on the county's roads leading to the ferry, "I don't know where we're going to get the money," Blumenberg said.

Commissioners agreed that it seems nearly all of the traffic using those roads during the week is trucks, although more passenger vehicles are seen on the weekends.

County officials having been struggling to make ends meet in the road and bridge department as costs have increased but the county's road and bridge budget has not.

"We can't operate on the same amount of money we've got," Blumenberg said.

Blumenberg repeated his suggestion that the county should get a traffic counter to help them set priorities for road maintenance.

"We need to pursue that counter," Oliver agreed.

Commissioners also discussed their plans for the rest of this year's road maintenance.

"We'll probably start blacktopping in another week or so," Blumenberg said. Until then, road and bridge department crews will be sealing roads, he said.

In other business Thursday:

* Commissioners reviewed a letter from the Department of Natural Resources regarding the fuel tank closure at the county airport.

Smith and Co. of Poplar Bluff has been conducting ground water tests where the tanks were buried before being removed to comply with DNR requirements.

According to the letter, "they didn't test for lead," County Clerk Junior DeLay said.

Smith and Co. responded to DNR's notice regarding lead testing.

The most recent letter from DNR advises the county has adequately addressed most of DNR's concerns and that DNR will not require a lead analysis due to the low amount of other contaminants.

While an official closure notice from DNR has not been received by the county, "for all intensive purposes, I think everything's done," DeLay said.

* Commissioners discussed the results of a county bridge inspection by the Missouri Department of Transportation's district bridge engineer.

"Mark Phillips from MoDOT went out and looked at all the bridges and made comments on what we have to do," Blumenberg said. "They're just comments we have to get checked out."

Of the 43 bridges in the county that are maintained by the county, 11 had items that Phillips commented on, according to county officials.

"Mostly minor defects," Blumenberg said.

DeLay noted that due to bridges being replaced by culverts and railroad car bridges, which the state does not inspect or approve, the county now has fewer bridges on the list of those inspected by MoDOT.

"We used to have 56," he recalled.

* Harry "Joker" Warren and his wife, Julia, of Charleston are offering to donate to the county an old rolltop desk formerly used by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

DeLay said the desk is reportedly five and half feet wide and three feet deep and has been restored.

Commissioners discussed locations around the courthouse where it could be displayed.

Blumenberg said he is concerned that if it is placed in the alcove near the entrance to the courtrooms upstairs it may be vandalized.

He suggested placing the desk on the other end of the upstairs hall near the circuit court clerk's office.

DeLay agreed to check out the desk so he can advise commissioners on whether to accept the donation or not.

* Commissioners approved a right-of-way request from the county's rural water district.

"The water district asked permission to run lines under some county ditches," DeLay explained.

* The county is publishing a notice inviting mowing contractors to bid on approximately 19.68 miles of mowing on county ditches.

The work will be on Ditch 10, Ditch 23 and Ditch 30 and their laterals.