WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Dec. 29, 2008) — Incoming Western District County Commissioner Ricky Zweerink will face a host of budget problems, but he’ll also face road problems in his role managing the road crews working on the western half of Pulaski County.
Zweerink and other re-elected county officials will be sworn in at a courthouse ceremony at 9 a.m. Wednesday, but he won’t officially take office from current Western District Commissioner Dennis Thornsberry until the first day of the new year. At Monday morning’s county commission meeting, Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham cautioned Zweerink that he won’t have much time to get used to his new job before he starts receiving phone calls.
“At 12:01, your phone is going to ring and somebody’s going to want to know what you’re going to do about a pothole,” Farnham said.
“I know, it’s already happened … more than once,” Zweerink said.
Zweerink said he knows he’ll receive criticism but told his colleagues that he’ll try to do his job for constituents without focusing on media critics.
“I learned a long time ago that I can’t even read or pay attention to what they write about me in the paper,” Zweerink said. “You can tell me what they say about me and how they rake me over the coals.”
Pulaski County’s road problems are complicated by the presence of numerous “neighborhood improvement districts” — areas outside city limits where the original subdivision developer or later residents have banded together to create a special tax assessment that was used to build higher-quality hard surfaced roads than the gravel roads that Pulaski County could ordinarily afford to maintain.
Ginger Grosskreutz, a resident of one of those subdivisions off Highway 17 north of Waynesville, came to the county commission and asked what could be done about her road which is in a NID.
Grosskreutz said she was told payments would be on a 10-year schedule but has since learned the payments are actually on a 15-year cycle.
“That tells me there is money somewhere,” Grosskreutz said.
Not necessarily, Ransdall said, since many of the county’s NIDs were approved years ago without a maintenance fund in place and road repair costs have skyrocketed in recent years.
“What should have happened is there should have been as much put aside as the payments were going to be,” Ransdall said.
Farnham said he’d look at Grosskreutz’s road to see if the worst of the pothole problems could be fixed.
“Probably I need to look at the ones that are so bad and need to be cut out,” Farnham said.
“We’d just like to see something done with it,” Grosskreutz said.
Monday was Thornsberry’s last business meeting as a county commissioner, but he cautioned that the county’s problems with NIDs will only become more serious in future years after the NIDs run out and the county has no money to pay for upkeep of higher-quality roads.
“We’ve had some of these guys some in and ask what happens when these are paid off,” Thornsberry said. “I don’t know what you are going to do about all those NIDs, but it’s a mess and it’s going to have to be addressed.”
Farnham faces an immediate problem as well — a storm damaged eastern district road shed that insurance adjustors estimate will cost $15,500 to repair the main building and $1,000 each on two fuel pumps.
“Are you looking at a wooden structure going back up or metal?” Ransdall asked.
Farnham said some of the lumber on the existing road shed is wrecked but some is usable, and said a carport-type structure is being considered. Ransdall, who co-owns a company that focuses on construction salvage, reviewed plans with Farnham and volunteered suggestions on how best to handle the replacement work.
While the damage to the tanks was significant, Farnham said their presence may have prevented even worse damage to an adjacent structure.
“If those gas tanks had not been there, that wall would probably have fallen all the way and taken out that double-wide,” Farnham said.