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Commission hears road and bridge report

During a meeting Tuesday, the St. Francois County Commission heard a report from the Road and Bridge Department on this past weekend’s winter weather and also announced one of their supervisors will be retiring.

Road and Bridge Highway Administrator Wendell Jarvis gave a storm report and he said his workers were out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said they watched it pretty closely because they expected it to be worse than it was.

“About 10 a.m. Saturday morning we had a few spots where the roads started freezing up,” said Jarvis. “Then I noticed around 1 p.m. it started raining harder and it actually melted the icy spots. Then we concentrated on down trees and limbs and it went great.”

Another supervisor, Clay Copeland said this storm was a little different than others in the sense they anticipated through the weather reports that the ice was going to be severe.

“So we did do some pre-treating prior to this storm, which we normally don’t do just because we don’t have the resources to pre-treat like MoDOT does,” said Copeland. “We did and whether or not that made a difference, I don’t know, but our roads weren’t slick at all.”

Copeland added throughout the course of the weekend, as Jarvis had said, they had to focus on limbs and trees being down.

“That is what we have been working on the last three days,” said Copeland. “We worked Saturday, Sunday and even yesterday (Monday) and we will probably be cleaning that up for the next two weeks.”

Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson added that on Friday evening about 8 p.m., Michael Cassrey, a manager with Dexter’s Barbecue, brought ribs to the road and bridge department for the workers. He said it was very much appreciated and that Cassrey really went all out for them.

Jarvis went on to talk about one of the road and bridge workers who will be retiring in July.

“Tom Sebastian is going to be retiring and he asked me not to mention his name, but I thought, how am I going to do this without mentioning his name,” explained Jarvis. “We cannot replace Tom. It’s impossible to replace the knowledge that he has. He is great man and has done a great job for this county for several years.”

John Gross is going to be filling a supervisor spot. He added he told Gross that they can’t replace Sebastian, but they can fill a position.

“John has been with the county for four years now and he has done a great job,” said Jarvis. “He has proved himself as a leader amongst the men as a crew leader and he is very knowledgeable about everything that we do. He can run any kind of equipment, can work on any equipment and has a lot of knowledge in several areas.”

Jarvis said there were three other men from the road and bridge department who were interviewed.

“It’s always tough to tell somebody this guy got it and you didn’t,” said Jarvis. “I will say it was well accepted amongst the other three who did not get it, which I greatly appreciate. I look for John to help take us to the next level, whatever that level may be. I’m not sure if we even know what that is yet.”

Jarvis added Gross is a great guy and as far as he is concerned he is the man for the position. Copeland will move up to Sebastian’s job and Gross will take Copeland’s position.

“Tom and myself have done this as a team, just the two of us who covered everything,” said Copeland. “We wanted John acclimated to the job for a few months and then he and I will be the team who takes over from there.”

Jarvis said one of the things about Sebastian is he knows everybody in the county. He said if they had a question about who owned a piece of property or who they needed to talk to about a specific piece of property while working on the road, Sebastian knew the answer.

“That is knowledge that we will have to learn over time, but we can’t replace,” stressed Jarvis.

Sebastian has been with the road and bridge department since 1985 and started as a laborer. He moved up the ranks throughout the years and became a road and a bridge supervisor in 2013.

Wilkinson said early on in his tenure, Gross was hired along with other employees, but he has really been instrumental in the barn being turned around. Gross had experience, knowledge and ability to operate a lot of things.

“In fact, I think at first he was a little bit resented because he was the new guy,” said Wilkinson. “Just his manner, his abilities, he set the stage, set the step, set the pace and people got on board.”

Jarvis added Gross is one of those guys who won’t tell you what he can do, he will just go do it.

Jarvis then changed the subject and announced they recently got a new truck.

“The sheriff’s department and road and bridge teamed up on this one,” said Jarvis. “We got a new roll-back truck and we will be able to haul equipment and cars. I think it will save the county a lot of money. If we need it or the sheriff’s department needs it, we have it. We just teamed up on this one.”

Road and Bridge Supervisor Clay Copeland, left, and Road and Bridge Supervisor Wendell Jarvis discuss the ice storm and Road and Bridge Supervisor Tom Sebastian's retirement.

Road and Bridge Supervisor Clay Copeland, left, and Road and Bridge Supervisor Wendell Jarvis discuss the ice storm and Road and Bridge Supervisor Tom Sebastian’s retirement.

John Gross, pictured, will replace one of the supervisor positions in the road and bridge department after Road and Bridge Supervisor Tom Sebastian retires.

John Gross, pictured, will replace one of the supervisor positions in the road and bridge department after Road and Bridge Supervisor Tom Sebastian retires.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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