Phelps County Commissioners Thursday approved a motion to apply for a federal grant that, if approved, would help pay for improvements to County Road 7550 in the Mill Creek area, south of Newburg.

Phelps County Commissioners Thursday approved a motion to apply for a federal grant that, if approved, would help pay for improvements to County Road 7550 in the Mill Creek area, south of Newburg.
The commission is applying for the federal funds through the Federal Lands Access Program. Applications are due Oct. 15.
The county estimates that the total cost for materials and to hire a contractor to do the improvement work on the 3.8-mile road is $128,636.60. That includes chip-and-seal as well as subgrade materials and drainage pipes. That amount also assumes a road width of 18 feet.
The county would pay 20 percent of that cost, or $25,727.32. The county’s share cannot be in-kind services, Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said.
If the grant is approved, Verkamp said the county’s share would have to come out of the road department’s gravel and culvert budget, which is already over-budget due to materials needed for flood recovery work.
Verkamp said if the grant is approved, county officials would then take a look at the county budget to see if a 20 percent match could be feasible.
It was noted that the road is in poor shape and parts of it are underwater after it rains.
At Tuesday’s commission meeting, District One Commissioner Larry Stratman asked what the point of chipping and sealing the road would be if it goes underwater sometimes.
As part of the application, county officials had to provide a traffic count on the road. According to a recent traffic count taken on the road, there were 87 vehicles that used the road in one week.
However, commissioners felt if the traffic count was conducted at a different time, such as during hunting season or during the summer when recreation areas are used more, the count would have been higher.
The road connects to recreation areas in the Mill Creek watershed, Mark Twain Forest as well as the Bohigian Conservation Area.
Approximately $3 million is available to Missouri through the Federal Lands Access Program, which can help fund improvements to transportation facilities that provide access to, are adjacent to or are located within federal lands.
The funds will be awarded to projects that have an emphasis on high-use recreation sites and economic generators.
Applications will be scored through the end of November. Commissioners could find out if their request is approved by December.

In other business
• Also at Thursday’s commission meeting, Verkamp notified the commission that the Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District board approved an application for Phelps County to keep its Tough on Trash program. Verkamp said the request must also be approved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. County Clerk Carol Bennett said the application to continue the program requested $12,270.80. Verkamp said the board reviewed applications requesting a total of about $300,000, but the board only had about $190,000 to fund requests.
• The commission approved a motion to request a Traffic Engineering Assistance Program (TEAP) study that would create an inventory of low-water crossings throughout the county and rank them based on how they would be impacted by flooding. The commission met with representatives from the firm Benton and Associates who say they have a model that can do such a thing. With a TEAP, the commission can simply choose a firm from a prequalified list and not seek bids.
• The commission signed a proclamation that states that Oct. 4 was Manufacturing Day in Phelps County.
• Commissioners approved awarding gas and diesel bids for the county highway department to 63 Fuel Stop in Edgar Springs and MFA Oil. MFA bid a discount of 6 cents off per gallon on E-85 and unleaded fuel and 5 cents off for diesel, and 63 Fuel Stop submitted a bid of 4 cents off the posted price for gas and 7 cents off the posted price for diesel. The commission took no action on awarding the gas and diesel bids for the sheriff’s department, as Bennett is waiting to clarify those bids.
• The commission discussed but took no action on a request to lower the speed limit on County Road 7020, a dead-end road west of Rolla, located off Bridge School Road. Residents along the road raised the issue to commissioners. Bennett said it has been a precedent that the commission not set speed limit on gravel roads or dead-end roads. Verkamp said he feels a speed limit will not solve the problem of speeding that residents have complained about. The commission agreed to talk with County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson about the issue.