Greetings Friends of the 144th!
This past week I attended the Ozark Regional Planning Commission meeting at Sam A Baker Park. I lucked out as this meeting was not only held in the District but they also had their annual fish fry and who doesn’t enjoy a good fish fry! It was nice to visit with all the area commissions and others who make up the Ozark Regional Planning Commission. This organization does a lot for our community and I am always happy to support them in any way I can.
Our district, because of its large size, is actually part of three regional planning commissions. There are parts of four counties that make up our district so that puts us being a member of many different organizations and public entities. Because of this, it keeps me on the road many miles each week and makes it impossible for me to attend all the events throughout the district. However, I do my best to make it to as many as possible.
State Continues to Invest in Transportation Infrastructure
State officials received more good news recently when Missouri was awarded additional federal dollars to repair 40 bridges in northern Missouri. The state will receive a $20.7 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Competitive Highway Bridge Program that will allow the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to replace the bridges.
The new funding builds on the legislative efforts of the General Assembly to provide new revenue sources for infrastructure repair. During the 2019 regular session, the legislature approved a $301 million bonding plan that will allow 215 bridges across the state to be repaired or replaced. The bonding plan was triggered when the state received an $81.2 million INFRA grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The legislature also approved a $50 million appropriation in the state budget to allow an additional 35 bridges to be repaired or replaced, and an additional $50 million in funding to create the Governor’s Transportation Cost-Share Program.
The newest federal grant will enable the state to replace 40 bridges north of I-70 that are in poor condition, weight-restricted, supported by timber pile, and one-lane wide but carry two-way traffic. The grant will allow the state to remove current detours and prevent futures ones. It will also help increase safety on the state’s rural roads and reduce costs associated with maintaining bridges.
This grant continues the momentum we’ve gained in recent months to invest in infrastructure improvements. Missouri’s farm-to-market roads are critical connections to Missouri’s highways, railways, and waterways, allowing our farmers to compete in the global marketplace. The bridges that will be replaced as a result of this grant would have posed obstacles to that connectivity had they been further weight restricted or closed.
State Government Reorganizes to Improve Efficiency
With the support of the state legislature, Gov. Mike Parson moved forward with a fundamental restructuring of state government designed to streamline operations and increase efficiency. The governor had stated it was his intent to restructure state government during his annual State of the State Address in January.
The bulk of the reorganization took place in the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which saw several of its divisions moved to other state agencies in an effort to create a more focused economic development strategy and be more competitive with neighboring states. The department previously had more employees than any of its Midwest competitors. Now its 865 employees have been reduced down to 177. The director of the department said, “We’re going to be laser-focused and streamlined.”
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Other components of the reorganization include:
• The Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center moving to the newly named Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (formerly the Department of Higher Education) to establish a single state resource for all postsecondary education options.
• The Division of Energy moving to the Department of Natural Resources.
• The Office of Public Counsel (OPC) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) relocating to the newly named Department of Commerce and Insurance (formerly the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and Professional Registration).
• The Missouri Arts Council moving to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.
The restructuring is meant to better align certain functions of state government, and the changes will hopefully streamline operations, increase efficiency, and improve customer service to all Missourians. I feel there are still many more places we need to look at to increase efficiency in State Government but this is a good starting point.
Crane Lake Project
As many of you are aware Crane Lake has been a hot topic of discussion in our area for the last few years. There is going to be a listening post/open house on Thursday, September 26th to update everyone about Crane Lake. It will be at Thee Abbey Kitchen in Arcadia Valley from 5 pm- 7 pm. All of the engineering studies are complete. They have identified feasible alternatives to address the dam’s deficiencies, and most importantly, the Forest Supervisor has identified the alternative she wants to propose to the public. This information will be shared with everyone at the listening post and will officially kick-off formal planning process.
Right now, the Forest Service has funding to design the project and produce contract specs, but does not have any for the actual construction. They have submitted the design scope of work through their contracting process to take advantage of FY’19 funds. The goal is to be through the process and ready to go when the funding becomes available. Hope you can make this meeting to hear the plans and to let your voice be heard regarding Crane Lake.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.