The Phelps County Road Department is moving from Old Fairgrounds Road to the country—but where? That remains a question. As far as Andy Davis, Phelps County coroner is concerned, it may be good news that the cost of an autopsy is staying the same, but when the budget is broken by August, what's a county coroner to do? Finally, the mystery of those rough-running new International dump trucks is solved—it's not what anybody thought.
1. The Phelps County commissioners are making early plans to relocate the County Road Department operations from Old Fairgrounds Road to a yet-to-be decided location, preferably just east of Rolla.
“There’s no question that making the change is probably overdue,” said Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp.
Road Department Clerk Michelle Bock said, “[Currently] there is no room—it leaks.”
On the back of that comment, Commissioner Gary Hicks added the move has been anticipated with the plans to sell the current property that has accrued a higher value as commercial property.
“We had all the underground tanks removed along with [completion of] Environmental Phases I and II, on the Fairgrounds property three years ago,” he said.
One property being considered for the new Phelps County Road Department headquarters is a five-acre plot of county-owned land off of Outer Dillon Road, just southeast of Larson Equipment and behind Sign Dimensions. The department has a set of building plans for equipment storage and an office, and with land, all that’s missing is a budget.
“We would anticipate that the proceeds from the sale of the Fairgrounds property would pay for the construction of a new facility,” said Commissioner Hicks.
“The big advantage is it takes the road graders, dump trucks and brush cutters off of “hamburger row,” said Verkamp, referring to the congestion on Kingshighway.
Commissioner Stratman said with the 72 Extension project spurring some development, “the highest and best use of that property (when originally purchased), was not what it is now,” said Commissioner Stratman.
“The only thing that has stopped us up to now [from acting] is the alternative of where to go,” said Verkamp. The commissioners are sensitive to land use. The county has looked at many properties, but would prefer to see commercial enterprises having the first choice, since those businesses would add to the tax base. Verkamp said many of those sites are now occupied by successful commercial businesses.
“We don’t need interstate frontage and we’re better off if we don’t have visibility,” said Verkamp. “[Putting road department operations there] is not the best use of the property.”
The property on Outer Dillon Road has some ingress/egress problems which will need to be addressed, should that be the new location of the Road Department. In the meantime, the commissioners said they remain open to purchasing property that may be for sale, preferably north of I-44 and between Rolla and St. James.
It was decided during the meeting to place advertising for the Fairgrounds property to get the ball rolling.
2. Effective Jan. 1, 2018 the [cost of] the autopsy rate will remain flat, with last year’s cost of $1,675 per case. This will be good news, according to the commissioners, who said County Coroner Andy Davis saw his autopsy budget depleted by the end of August.
There will also be a change in toxicology labs beginning Jan. 1, 2018, as addressed in a letter sent to the county clerk by Danny Fuemmeler, department administrator of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia. The University of St. Louis will no longer be processing toxicology reports for Phelps County, and will now be performed by NMS Labs (forensic toxicology). The reason for the change is a quicker turnaround on lab results.
3.New county International 7500 trucks have had a hard time staying on the roads of Phelps County, lately spending more time in the shop changing fuel filters. Fuel moisture sensors were lighting up in the rough-running trucks, so water in the fuel was first suspected. Now, it appears the real culprit is metal shavings in the fuel tanks—thought to be present as a result of the manufacture of the fuel tanks. Phelps County Road Department Clerk Michelle Bock said when one truck’s fuel was drained the shavings turned up in the fuel.
“That’s what was plugging up the [fuel] filters, throwing the code (of the moisture sensors) leading to believe there’s water in there, ” said Bock. Representatives from International came to Rolla to inspect the fuel filters that had been taken off of the trucks. “There were metal shavings in them,” said Bock. She said the company has a procedure to remove the shavings and will be arranging for the procedure to be performed on the tanks of the new trucks. Mystery solved.