Three take-a-ways about land protection from lobbying efforts going on now in Jeff City, what the road department is up to and voter canvassing to start.

1. Commissioner’s Association fights utility lobbying efforts

The alarm has been raised by the County Commissioners Association because of their claim that utility companies are lobbying in Jefferson City to eliminate Missouri Statute 229.100. This statute deals with improvements along public roads, location of activity and the control of activity. Currently, the statute prevents “person (or persons), association, companies or corporations” from erecting power poles, stringing electrical wire, pipes, conductors or conduits—through, over, under or across county property without obtaining the county’s blessing.
A letter signed “concerned citizens,” and attributed to the County Commissioners Association, according to Phelps County Commissioner Larry Stratman,  says “the statute needs to be strengthened to further protect Missouri landowners, county commissions and individual commissioners from being sued by public utility companies.”
It states further, “without local control, counties would be at the mercy of corporations and citizen’s land would essentially be for sale against their will.  The county should not be forced to accept these projects and profit the corporation or public utility at the expense of the landowners.  Presently, 229.100 is the only vehicle for stopping projects such as these and for protecting property rights.”
“Stratman said, “I don’t object to most of it (the activity), but you’re going to have to tell us when you’re cutting our roads.” He added that they (the commissioners) would let the County Commissioners Association take the lead, to counter the movement.

2. Phelps County Road Department update

The county Roads Department has wrapped up their chip-and-seal season for the year due to the cold weather. Superintendent Walter Snelson estimated the department chip-and-sealed 42 miles of roadway. All roads that had the asphalt treatment were is such bad shape with cracking and potholes that it took two runs of the process to make a smooth road—therefore, 84 miles of coverage. When asked about the life-span of these “double-chipped” roads, Superintendent Snelson said, “Five to eight years.”
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp asked about the Road Department budget. “The bottom line is—were fine,” said Michelle Bock, clerk with Road Department. “We’re over [budget] chip-and-seal.” Bock said they budgeted $500,000, but are now showing expenditures over $700,000 but said they were under budget in other roads and bridges improvements so it should balance.
Snelson said flooding damage kept the chip-and-seal crew from getting an earlier start this year, but he hopes to get a wider window of good weather next year, barring damaging flooding, to hit the remaining roads in need of repair. The crew wasn’t able to start until the first of October and incurred  breakdowns along the way.
Winter preparation: 350 tons of salt has been ordered from Lange-Stegmann Company in St. Louis for the upcoming winter season. The county used to buy cinders as well, but, “You can’t get cinders anymore,” said Snelson. We were getting it from Labadie [Power Plant], (coal by-products from electrical generation) but MoDOT’s got it all tied up.
“We’re kind of up a creek without cinders—I don’t know what we’re gonna do,” said Bock. Bock mentioned the county was paying $67 per ton of salt, sorted and delivered, compared to $105 per ton last year. They will store any purchased surplus next spring at $3 per ton.
“If you have 100 tons left, stored for $3 per ton, you can’t build a building for that [price],” said Snelson. “The only downfall, is that we had to pre-pay for the salt,” added Bock. She said the City of Rolla also buys salt from the same company. The Road Department currently has no place to store the salt, so it has to be delivered preceeding reports of bad weather.

3 Voter canvassing is starting

County Clerk Pam Grow says voter registration cards are being mailed out to registered Phelps County voters. The cream-colored cards will have all the voter’s information printed on the card. Any cards returned to the post office will be cross-referenced with the county voter roll database.”Voting rights are tied to a physical location because you can’t vote in a school district where you don’t live,” said Grow. This is important Grow says, because you shouldn’t be able to decide the tax levy for a school district you don’t reside in. Check your mailboxes.

PHOTO caption: Working to clean out the old jail for a new renovation is from left, Gary Newton, maintenance for the Sheriff’s Department, Matthew Birdsong, trustee, Bret Steavens, trustee and Ray Heniff, maintenance of plant operations, Sheriff’s Department.