The St. Francois county Commission recently discussed proposed legislation regarding lettered roads.
St. Francois County Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins said that on Dec. 29 he received a letter from the Missouri Association of Counties.
“They like to send information out to prepare us for the 2016 legislative session,” said Mullins. “There is a senate proposal that raises fuel tax and transfers lettered roads to county. SJR18 sponsored by Senator Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is a proposed constitutional amendment that increases the motor fuel tax on diesel fuel by three-and-one-half cents and one-and-one-half cents on all other motor fuel.”
Mullins said it also shifts control and maintenance of supplementary state highways to counties under a new funding formula.
“Shifting the state’s transportation roads to local government is definitely not a solution,” said Mullins. “We did some research on this and they have tried this in the past. Senator (Mike) Kehoe, who is the new floor leader, he is strongly opposed on this. When they start bringing this stuff to the table you can’t just sit idly. You have to be very vocal so my question to our highway administrator (Wendell Jarvis) would be, if we were responsible for the lettered roads that MoDOT currently takes care of, what kind of stresses would that put on you, your two foreman and the employees down at the county road and bridge department?”
Jarvis stated that it would put a lot of stress on them, because they don’t have near the manpower they would need to take over the lettered roads.
“So we are looking at more manpower and we are looking at more and different equipment,” said Jarvis. “They are running 60 miles per hour on these highways and we would have to go to the lighted signs, which are very expensive so you are looking at different types of equipment.”
Jarvis added that he is unsure of their thinking behind this proposal.
“We work with the local state buildings every day,” said Jarvis. “We will help them out and they will help us out. If they go to this, it could cause the county some problems. We don’t have the budget to maintain these lettered roads.”
Gallaher said that every time they have been at meetings where the state talks about this, it was in conjunction with getting the county to help them pass a gas tax.
“This is their threat that they hold over us. In one meeting they were talking about maintaining some minimal standards and inspection for the lettered highways,” said Gallaher. “I asked if that includes bridges and the guy said ‘no.’ One of the other commissioners picked up immediately, because they will let a few bridges fail and then we are land-locked. We are in trouble then.”
Jarvis said they need to get this figured out on a state level. It needs to be taken care of and not on the county’s shoulders.
“We help out, we will do some molding for them and we will do some things to help the state out,” said Jarvis. “We are more than willing to work with them, but we can’t take over these lettered roads.”
Mullins said that right now they are just going to talk about it. They are talking about proposing a new funding solution. The Missouri Association of Counties has not even acquired the paperwork on the funding.
“I think what needs to take place is that we need to strongly opposes this and I’ll even put that in the form of a motion,” said Mullins. “Then I can send that in an email that this commission on this date were adamantly opposed and send it to Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington).”
The commission approved the motion that they are opposed to the transfer of lettered highways to county road and bridge operations.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org