After having won top honors in the 2017 Missouri Association of Counties Achievement Awards for its Weber Road Facility, the St. Francois County Commission voted unanimously to submit another entry in the hopes that lightning might strike twice in the same spot.
Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins suggested that the county apply for another award with its Adopt A County Road Program.
“Several years ago we applied, after visiting with the Missouri Department of Transportation and our lawyer going back and forth between MoDOT and Jefferson City, we wanted to create a program using volunteers that would basically save our road and bridge department from picking up trash along county roads,” he said. “It’s around $1,200 a day for our road and bridge department using their man hours, using their vehicles, landfill fees and whatnot, to do all that. I understand that it’s a fixed cost, but rather than picking up trash, let’s let them do something else that would better fit the county and serve the taxpayers.
“There’s a lengthy program that we went through. There’s a stack of papers describing the dos and the don’ts, the liability issues, what you’re supposed to wear. The county furnishes trash bags, vests and those little grabber things to pick up the trash.”
According to Mullins, there are currently 17 groups picking up 23.4 miles of trash.
“After discussing with Dick Burke, there is no county that is really using that,” he said. “The commissioners created this program several years ago and, so I’d like to make a motion to apply for the Missouri Association of Counties 2018 Achievement Awards and we’ll see what happens.”
When asked if it would be possible to use prison inmates to clean up county roads instead of volunteers, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher said, “We’ve looked at that and it only costs us $7.50 per day, per offender to do that, but you can’t use local offenders for that because you may drive by and see the person that offended your daughter and go get a gun and come back. You can’t do that at all.
“We’re looking at federal detainees, but we haven’t done that yet. I think I heard it was moving a little while back, but it’s a slow process. We tried it all last year and we just couldn’t get it done. Another thing is that you have to assign two people, of your road and bridge crew in this case, to do that and have to supply the Porta Potty and all that. So, there’s a lot of structure.
Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson said, “There’s obligation with that as well. You have to take them every day year-around and you may not have a need for them.”
Another questioner wondered if someone checked to make sure the volunteers were actually picking up trash in the area they’re assigned to.
“In our road and bridge department we have the sign crew and they’re the ones that keep up with that,” Mullins said. “And yes, they are. Occasionally they’ll get a phone call from me asking, ‘Hey, are you still interested in doing the program?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yes, we’re still going to do it.’
Wilkinson said, “They have to be participating to keep those signs. You know, littering is an increasing problem. You’d think that after all the education it would be better than it used to be, but I believe it’s worse than it’s ever been.
The commission voted unanimously to submit the program for the 2018 Achievement Awards.
St. Francois County received the 2018 Achievement Award by the National Association of Counties (NACo) at its annual conference held July 13-14 in Nashville, Tennessee. NACo, which represents the 3,068 counties, parishes and commonwealths in the United States, presents the award to highlight successful programs instituted by counties to serve as an example for the other government entities.
In May it received notification that it was the recipient of the 2018 Excellence in Leadership award by NACo for its re-purposing of a donated former medical office building into a morgue and additional office space.
“You know, littering is an increasing problem.” — Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com