County commission hopes to find answer

Phelps County Commissioners plan to ask federal and state transportation officials early next week if county forces can be used to construct new bridges and use federal money to pay for needed materials.
On the agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 3, commission meeting which starts at 9 a.m. at the county courthouse, are Kenny Voss, of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and Scott Bowles, of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) who are scheduled to speak with the commission.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said the commission is appreciative of the two representatives taking the time to travel to Rolla to hold a discussion in person.
“The question (posed to Voss and Bowles) will be, is there a procedure to follow to allow the use of federal bridge monies to pay for materials if we do all or part of the labor ourselves,” Verkamp told the Daily News Thursday.
Verkamp said the county would be able to build more bridges using county crews “if we can be allowed to use that (federal money).”
Commissioners have been told that if they are allocated federal funds to replace bridges, certain specifications must be met, such as bringing the bridge and approaches out of the floodplain, which can significantly raise the cost of new crossings.
“On these low-volume roads, we don’t need an I-44 standard bridge,” Verkamp said. “On these low-volume roads, we don’t have to build a Cadillac bridge, but we can build one quite well that will serve residents for many, many years pretty economically if they can give us this latitude.”
The presiding commissioner noted that there is a concern that if a county’s own forces are used to build bridges, it will take away work from contractors.
However, Verkamp said local contractors could still be used for spread footings and abutments on bridge projects in the county.
“We support their effort to keep contractors viable and when we do a large project, that’s when we need the capability or skills of general contractors,” Verkamp said.

Aug. 29 meeting
• This past week, at the Aug. 29 meeting, the commission heard from resident Dan Roberts, who claimed work to widen a section of County Road 5340 conducted by the county’s highway department led to his fence being damaged.
The commission agreed that once the county highway department has time, Roberts will be contacted to sign an agreement, similar to ones his neighbors did years ago but that Roberts refused to sign at the time. The county’s road crews will clear trees and stumps in the area.
“I’m just trying to get along with you guys,” Roberts said, noting this was an issue six years ago.
• County Emergency Management Director Sandy North told commissioners that she is seeking volunteers to help out with taking phone calls and logging information during emergencies. She noted that Pulaski County has a group called COAD that flood victims could call for help or churches could call to coordinate assistance.
• The commission on approved floodplain permit applications for Michael Manley and contingent on receiving more information on damage, for Edward Anderson, too.
• Commissioners approved awarding a project for a new HVAC control system at the county jail to the low bidder of are Midwest Machinery, of Chesterfield, representing Trend Technology, for $67,900.
• In addition, the commission approved a supplement agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for improvements to the railroad crossing on Country Club Road, west of Rolla. The state commission will cover 90 percent of the costs and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad will pay for 10 the remaining 10 percent. There is no cost to the county except for placing a new railroad crossing warning sign. The project will include new flashing lights, signals and gate arms at the crossing.
• County commissioners approved changing the speed limit on County Road 8270 to 25 mph.
• The commission plans to tentatively meet Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. in the courthouse’s multi-purpose room with several agencies throughout the county to take part in a presentation by Everbridge regarding an emergency alert system that county residents could have the option to sign up for to receive notifications.

Aug. 27 meeting
• At the Aug. 27 meeting, the commission took part in a conference call about updating the county’s current video tourbook on its website. The commission heard from CGI Communications, which can offer local businesses a chance to sponsor the video and add a community organizations section. No action was taken as of Thursday morning.
• Also the commission met in closed session to discuss litigation.