CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County's road and bridge department has been too shorthanded for too long.
The county budget is tight: road and bridge department costs are increasing while revenues have remained flat. Through attrition, the department's personnel have been reduced to bring expenses down. But the roads are beginning to suffer.
"If it doesn't get addressed, it will be a total disaster," Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said during the regular county commission meeting Thursday.
Ten years ago, the road and bridge department had 14 workers, according to Blumenberg, while today it only has 11.
Blumenberg said he has heard complaints from county residents about the condition of the county's roads. He said part of the problem is the department only has two trucks hauling materials which isn't enough to get materials stockpiled at the county shed.
Officials figured an additional worker would cost about $20,000 per year when benefits are added in.
"We're short handed out there but I don't know how we're going to pay for another," Commissioner Martin Lucas said. He later added, "I think we're going to have to bite the bullet and hire another man."
In other business Thursday:
* Commissioners clarified for the record: the county does not have a bounty on beavers.
"We have a beaver hunter," Blumenberg said.
Someone recently brought in 10 beaver tails attempting to collect a bounty from the county on them, Blumenberg said.
The problem with a bounty, commissioner agreed, is there is no way they can know for sure the beavers came from a county-maintained ditch.
* Commissioners approved the use of red gravel to build up the shoulder on County Road 401.
The shoulder maintenance was requested by Michael Jones who owns a shop in that area.
"I think it's pretty dangerous," Jones said. "In a passenger car going 50 mph, it would be a pretty bad deal."
Blumenberg said it would be a good use for the red gravel as the gravel isn't good enough for use on gravel roads.
* Commissioners approved submitting a plan for temporary easements to the Missouri Department of Transportation for approval.
The easements will be required during the Off-Systems Bridge Replacement Program project on County Road 522, according to Dennis Cox of Smith & Company, engineers for the project.
* Commissioners appointed Amanda Medlock, a kindergarten teacher in Charleston, to replace Annette Robinson on the Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation board of directors.
Medlock was recommended by Robinson who retired from the position.
Commissioners are considering closing a section of the new No. 7 road as requested. The closure would still provide access to the fishing ramp. The other section of the road is almost exclusively used for "mudding," according to county officials.