On Tuesday, March 12, Phelps County Commissioners and County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson will take a road trip around the county to look at certain bridges that could possibly be replaced with Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) funds.

Late last year, all counties in the state were asked to obligate all of the their BRO funds.

With Phelps County receiving a fiscal year 2013 allocation of $115,819.45, the county’s balance totaled $285,854.74 as of Nov. 27, 2012. The county's soft match funds totaled $18,143.38.

A soft match is a credit earned by counties that replaces their deficient bridges with local funding.

This soft match can be used in lieu of the 20 percent local match on bridge projects.

BRO funds are currently appropriated by the state based on deficient bridges in each county and can be used for engineering and construction of eligible bridges.

However, counties are being asked to obligate all of their funds because there is a concern that the federal government will take them away if not used.

Additionally, some versions of a new federal long-term transportation bill do not include BRO funds. Other bills include wording that allows each state to spend the funds any way it wants, meaning the funds may not have to be distributed to counties.

In December, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) provided the commission with a list of 17 crossings in the county that qualify and that the county can spend their BRO funds on.

At Thursday’s commission meeting, the commissioners reviewed the list.

Three of the bridges are inside Rolla and Newburg city limits, so the commissioners agreed not to consider those.

Also because some of the bridges are eligible for full funding to replace them while others are eligible only for partial funding, District One Commissioner Larry Stratman suggested only looking at bridge projects eligible for full funding and bridges with low sufficiency ratings. That leaves the following bridges:

One of the lowest-rated bridges is on County Road 7460 over the Little Piney Creek, known as the Vida Bridge, which has a sufficiency rating of 20.3 percent. Another low-rated bridge is on County Road 5120 over the Little Dry Fork, which has a rating of 28.7 percent.

A bridge on County Road 6410 over Spring Creek has a sufficiency rating of 33.1 percent and a bridge on County Road 1420 over Bowen Creek has a sufficiency rating of 40.1 percent.

Other bridges on the list eligible for full funding to replace them are a crossing on County Road 8410 over Spring Creek (43.7 percent sufficiency rating), a crossing on County Road 1290 over Lanes Fork (47 percent sufficiency rating) and a crossing on County Road 2110 over a branch of Spring Creek (46.7 percent sufficiency rating).

While the Grotto Bridge over the Little Piney Creek on County Road 7530 has the lowest sufficiency rating (18.5 percent) of the 17 bridges on the list, the county vacated that bridge in January.

District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks said traffic counts should be considered, too.

After the commissioners select a bridge, they must then start a programming agreement with MoDOT before or during a solicitation for engineering firms to design the project.

In other business

Also at Thursday’s commission meeting, Phelps County Public Administrator Kathy Oliver shared with commissioners a request from the state attorney general’s office, asking her office to accept a case and become the guardian of a client, who is originally from St. James. The individual had been housed in Fulton and currently is housed in Farmington.

The case will be assigned to Associate Circuit Judge Ron White, who will make a decision, but Oliver said a letter will be sent to the attorney general’s office, declining to accept guardianship of the individual.

Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp suggested language that would state that accepting the case would be an “unnecessary burden on the taxpayers” be included in the letter to the attorney general’s office.

Oliver noted that she must travel across the state to visit clients assigned to her because the public administrators or judges in those counties will not take on any more cases.

In 2007, Oliver said she was serving 108 clients but currently, she has about 160 clients and of those 160, there are 42 clients who live outside of Phelps County.

The commission received a letter from Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, regarding the sequestration order issued by President Barack Obama that canceled approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the federal government that took effect March 1 and how it will impact payments made in June for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

Based on the president’s report to Congress, there will be a 5.1 percent reduction in the PILT program reducing 2013 payments to counties by this amount.

Additionally, the commission approved an updated nondiscrimination policy in order to receive federal financial assistance such as grants.