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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Road dept. feeling effect of slow response on reimbursements

  • The Phelps County Highway Department is feeling a budget crunch because reimbursement funds owed to the county for repair work after the August 2013 floods have not been received yet.
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  • The Phelps County Highway Department is feeling a budget crunch because reimbursement funds owed to the county for repair work after the August 2013 floods have not been received yet.
    When county commissioners approved the 2014 county budget, they expected to receive $750,000 in reimbursements in their revenue for the county road and bridge fund this year.
    However, as of Aug. 21, the county had only received $53,196.58, according to County Clerk Carol Bennett.
    Bennett told the Daily News Monday that a request for about $150,000 in reimburseable funds is being “pushed through” currently.
    When the initial requests were made for reimbursement, County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson said that about $1.5 million to $1.6 million had been spent on making repairs to roads and bridges damaged in the record-setting floods last summer.
    Snelson, Bennett and the commissioners have been working with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since last August, but commissioners feel the response from the agencies has been slow.
    District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said he figures about 20 different people have “laid their hands on things” and hardly any money has been received a year later.
    He said he feels like the paperwork is just being handed back and forth.
    Bennett said staff with her office and the county road department had to re-copy seven boxes full of paperwork at one point in the process to be reimbursed.
    Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said the county shouldn’t have to deal with a delay in reimbursement because of “bouncing paperwork back and forth.”
    With the expected revenue not coming in, Snelson and county road crews are facing a problem of how to pay for chip-and-seal work needed on county roads.
    “If we can’t reseal the roads, we at least have to patch them,” Stratman said.
    Additionally, Bennett said bills need to be paid, such as payroll, health insurance and equipment being leased by the road department.
    Also, the road department has not yet paid back a $103,500 interfund loan to the use tax fund yet this year.
    Funds received through the County Aid Road Trust (CART) program this week will help pay some bills, Bennett said, but payment of other bills will likely have to be pushed off until September.
    County commissioners and Snelson have contacted state lawmakers, including Sen. Dan Brown, and Missouri’s representatives in Congress, including Rep. Jason Smith, to ask what they could do to help speed up the reimbursements. Calls also have been made to SEMA.
    Stratman said the commission not only needs to come up with a financial plan for the road department by the end of the month but also needs a plan for the rest of the year.

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