Commissioners Look At Bridge, Road Budget

By MARK EVANS

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More than three weeks after the Franklin Bridge was closed to traffic, Ste. Genevieve County Commissioners expressed frustration that the bridge work was not yet done last Thursday.

The century-old bride on Franklin Road, on the outskirts of St. Mary, is having its wooden deck replaced with metal grating. A couple of other structural repairs were supposed to take place during the process.

Metal smith Pete Harnish was hired to put the grating in place, in addition to replacing some metal parts on the aging bridge.

The bridge was blocked off on Nov. 12, with the anticipation of the entire job being done in short order. However, various delays have kept the project from being finished. In fact, someone from Franklin Road called on Thursday to inquire when the bridge would reopen. He also complained that his telephone line had been cut during the work.

The metal grating took longer to be delivered than anticipated. Now the replacing of one aging pen has held up the project’s completion. Harnish had said he would have to redo the pen, but was anticipating being able to complete the project by the end of the week.

When Nelson visited the site on Friday, Harnish was indeed getting gratomg down and installing the new pen.

Nelson was frustrated about the pen. Chris Crocker of the Missouri Department of Transportation, who had inspected the bridge earlier this year, along with Jeremy Manning of Smith & Company Engineering, had raised concerns about the pen. Thursday, in a phone conversation, Crocker had said the metal grating was actually lighter than the water-logged wooden deck and that the integrity of the pen shouldn’t matter.

ROAD & BRIDGE STAYING WITHIN ITS BUDGET

With the year nearing an end, Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson went over the road and bridge budget with foreman Scott Schmieder.

Nelson emphasized that there is no cause for alarm. The county had to scale back its annual paving of gravel roads, due to anticipated fuel tax and sales tax revenue falling off because of the COVID-19 shutdown, tackling only Magnolia Hollow Road in the spring. Overall, with less being spent, things are largely evening out.

“Everybody knows fuel tax is not what it usually is, Nelson said. “We can’t control this, but we can control expenses.”

With 87 percent of wages having been spent, Nelson said the figure was “right on target.” He also noted that the cost of fuel – both because less was used and because prices have dropped during the pandemic – is about $30,000 less than last year.

“We’re not really bad off,” he said.

One thing Nelson did warn Schmieder about was to make sure rock is filed under the proper use, to keep records accurate. Less money has been spent on rock for prepping roads for paving than for maintenance work. Nelson said that at one time the budget had all the rock in one line item. Now it is divided between the two uses and needs to be recorded correctly.

Nelson said the headings for rock were “turned upside down” by the big Saline Creek Road project, in which a dangerous bluff and curve were removed and the road straightened.

“Looking back, we should have had it as a separate line item,”Nelson said. “It was a major project. It was a good project, but costly.”

It was also noted that there was $5,1320 left in the year’s budget for tires. However, about $3,000 worth have recently been ordered and another $1,000 worth will be needed on the dually truck.

Overall, Nelson said he feels good about the budget.

“Six months ago I was a little worried,” he said. “Now I’m not.”

OTHER ROAD ISSUES DISCUSSED

Nelson said he had visited an area of Hager Road, where a resident had said the lack of a ditch caused rock to get washed onto the road and damaged her driveway.

Nelson said he didn’t see “enough rock to fill a two-gallon bucket” washed up.

“I didn’t see a problem,” he said. He also told Schmieder that a location on Three Rivers Road where his crew had cleaned out a ditch was working well.

They also discussed the department’s skid steer. Schmieder said it had been running properly that morning, but that it had become “undependable.” It regenerates too often, he said, referring to a process of exhaust sensors kicking in and spraying urea into the exhaust, which uses its own heat to burn out accumulated particulate matter.

He said his crews have been sweeping roads,mowing, replacing road signs and cutting brush.

COMMISSION APPROVES CC REFINANCING

Nelson and First District Commissioner Joe Gettinger voted to approve refinancing of the three outstanding bonds on recent Ste. Genevieve County Community Center projects. Second District Commissioner Joe Gettinger could not attend, due to illness.

After seeing Ste. Genevieve County Memorial hospital save considerable money by refinancing its construction bonds, Brad Arnold, community center executive director, decided to pursue a refinancing, as well.

Steve Abts, Community Center board treasurer and MRV Banks executive, went over the plan with Arnold and the commissioners.

Currently the three projects still being paid off, the waterpark, Progress Sports Complex and Braden and Friends Challenger Playground, are being financed at 4.05 percent, 2.95 percent and 3.5 percent respectively. The refinancing, involving MRV Banks, First State Bank and UMV, with Gilmore-Bell serving as bond counselor, would combine the three into one bond, at 2.25 percent.

Arnold said it will save the county about $366,000 and will get the projects paid off  four years earlier – in 2033 instead of 2037.