Mayor, councilman disappointed with proposed use of sales tax

Rolla Mayor Lou Magdits and Councilman Jim Williams, especially Williams, made it clear Monday night that they are not pleased with the state government’s planned use of a proposed three-quarters of one cent sales tax.
“We’ve been let down,” Williams, who represents the 5th Ward, told Preston Kramer, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
Kramer attended the city council meeting to tell the council about the value the sales tax (to be voted on Aug. 5) will have for the eight counties in the Meramec region and the 18 counties in MoDOT’s Central District.
The council listened as Kramer explained why MoDOT believes this tax is needed.
Missouri has the seventh largest infrastructure among the 50 states, but it ranks 40th in its financial support of its infrastructure, he said. The General Assembly has passed HJR 68 and that puts Amendment 7 on the ballot.
“There’s a lot of misinformation” about the tax, Kramer said.
The tax would end in 10 years if it isn’t renewed by the voters before the sunset, he said, and it would not be levied on medicine, groceries or fuel.
It is only for transportation purposes, he said, and 90 percent will go to a list of statewide projects, while 5 percent will go to cities and 5 percent will go to counties.
The council listened as Kramer reviewed a fact sheet he presented them, showing what the three-fourth cent transportation sales tax would do for Meramec region cities and counties.
Here’s what counties will receive per year for 10 years:
Phelps: $215,028
Crawford: $168,615
Dent: $157,869
Gasconade: $137,592
Maries: $109,161
Osage: $139,347
Pulaski: $208,467
Washington $139,347.
Annual funding for select cities in the region is as follows:
Rolla: $134,298
St. James, $28,944
Newburg: $3,240
Doolittle: $4,320
Edgar Springs: $1,431
Waynesville: $33,156
St. Robert: $29,808
Vienna: $4,185
That is money the county commission and the city councils and boards will receive for their streets, roads and bridges, but there are also other projects affecting the area. These projects are on a draft list available for public perusal and comment on the MoDOT website,
That draft list of possibilities includes five projects for Phelps County:
• Adding passing lanes along U.S. Highway 63 from south of Vichy to north of Rolla.
• Resurfacing and adding shoulders to State Highway 68 from Highway 8 to Highway 19.
• Replacing/repairing the Highway D bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks just west of the Gasconade River near Jerome.
• Replacing/repairing the Highway B bridge over the Bourbeuse River.
• Adding one day per week for public transportation (Phelps County is currently served three times a month).
Kramer said the comment period will go through July 3 and then on July 9 the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission will make a final decision on a final list.
“That’s what the people will vote on,” he said.
Then, when Kramer was finished, Williams gave his comments and opinions about what the MoDOT and the highways commission have done or failed to do.
Williams noted the list includes much work on Interstate 70, U.S. Highways 50 and 60, more projects throughout the state including Mississippi River ports, public transportation for Branson, Amtrak service to Jefferson City and “greenways,” yet there is only a puny amount for a short stretch of Highway 63.
Highway 63 has needed attention for 50 years, Williams said, and Rolla and Phelps County have received promises over the years. Now, he said, the state wants local people to vote for the 10-year three-quarter cent tax, but the money is going elsewhere.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Williams said, and he noted Highway 63 is getting worse in terms of both its crumbling and decaying state and its use. On Fridays, he said, motorists must creep through the city because of the excessive use of the highway.
Yet, he said, Highway 63 up north and down south get some attention, but “the center part,” the stretch through Rolla, gets shorted.
“We have a transportation problem (on 63) in Rolla, he said.
Kramer said he understood the frustration, because he has lived near Highway 63 and worked on Highway 63 most of his life.
“Oh, Preston, I’m not blaming you,” Williams said, but he added that “the higher-ups” in Jefferson City “need to know” that Highway 63 needs more attention from the state than it is receiving.
“We need a bypass,” Williams said.
Kramer responded: “We encourage you to comment” on the website.
Magdits closed the discussion by noting that with the transportation sales tax, money would be moving away from Rolla. He said the state officials should be made aware “we are disappointed.”