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County seeks ways to use federal stimulus funds, MoDOT road shed
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Feb. 19, 2009) — Officials with the Missouri Association of Counties sent an e-mail last week to all county clerks asking them to consider ways to use the federal stimulus package to improve local infrastructure in Missouri. The e-mail was sent on Feb. 11 with responses requested by Feb. 20, but the Pulaski County Commission didn’t meet until one day before the requested response date.

However, Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall said during Thursday morning's county commission meeting he’d like to get the word out to all government agencies in Pulaski County that may be eligible for federal stimulus funding. Ransdall noted that the Missouri Association of Counties e-mail said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Energy Center “is looking for projects in cities under 35,000 population or in counties under 200,000 population.”

“These projects should be related to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects,” according to the forwarded note. “We’d welcome information pertaining (to) examples from county courthouses, city water treatment plants, or regional sewer systems. Any type of local government should be considered at this time.”

Ransdall said he had a letter from an engineering firm indicating that $38 million may be available for Missouri drinking water projects.

“So rural water districts here in Pulaski County ought to be prepared for that. We discussed earlier being shovel-ready,” Ransdall said. “I know there are a lot of board members of rural water districts who because of the housing boom need to extend their lines or increase the size of their lines … The county really has no direct involvement in that other than the people it serves. I would encourage everybody to look at what may be available in the Recovery Act.”

Ransdall said it may be possible to get more direct help for Pulaski County from state sources. The Missouri Department of Transportation has been consolidating numerous road sheds in recent years and the Swedeborg road shed is no longer used. Ransdall said he’s spoken to a Maries County commissioner who told him that county purchased the closed Brinktown road shed from MoDOT for less than $50,000, and then rented a corner of the property out to a cell phone company that is paying the county $400 to $500 per month.

Obtaining the Swedeborg shed could be a good arrangement for Pulaski County and allow the western district road workers to move out of a substandard county shed on land that is owned by the BNSF railroad, Ransdall said. However, Ransdall said MoDOT officials tell him it may now be necessary for MoDOT to go through a public bidding process before selling former road sheds to counties.

“I’d rather not go through a realtor or a public sale; I’d rather just pay $50,000 and have it outright,” Ransdall said. “It has salt bins; they let them have (the Brinktown shed) as it was; they even told them they could use the material if they needed it. It was a great move.”

Commissioner Bill Farnham, who is a real estate agent, asked if Ransdall knows who is handling property transactions for MoDOT. Ransdall said he wasn’t sure, but suspected the property would have little value for residential developers.

“I understand you can’t drink the water out there; it is real sulfurous and about all it’s good for is flushing a stool,” Ransdall said.

That’s not a problem for Pulaski County since bottled water could be provided but it would be a problem for a homeowner using well water, Ransdall said.

Commissioners received grant documents prepared by Kelly Sink-Blair of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission for road work and said they’re concerned that the grant would obligate the county to pay money it doesn’t have rather than simply contributing time of county employees to work on the project.

“We need to get Kelly on the phone because the only thing we were supposed to pay for this was in-kind services,” Farnham said. “In looking at the grant, it was talking about the federal grant of $75,000 and then it says $96,000 from us. It’s $96,000 that we would have to pay.”

When reached by phone, Sink-Blair said the money doesn’t have to come directly from county funds and could be grants received from other sources.

“I’m just uncomfortable obligating the county to spend $96,000,” Ransdall said.

In other business:

• Ransdall read a letter from St. Robert City Administrator Norman Herren, who is retiring from that position and asked to resign as a District 9 Transportation Advisory Committee member representing Pulaski County. Herren requested that St. Robert Mayor George Sanders succeed him in that position.

Ransdall also noted that Lenny Sharp of Crocker has resigned from the same advisory committee due to time commitments, and Zweerink recommended that Cecil Penland of Crocker replace him. Ransdall and Zweerink noted that Penland has attended every meeting discussing the Highway 17 bridge project.

“He takes this dead serious. He goes to every meeting, he lives and breathes this stuff,” Zweerink said.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to appoint both Sanders and Penland to the advisory committee vacancies.

• County Commissioners appointed numerous people to fill vacancies on other boards including the Pulaski County Board for the Handicapped.

“I have had a few people express interest in serving on that board, but we do it by area, so if there was a person from Waynesville who wanted to serve, it isn’t that we didn’t want them but that we needed someone from Dixon,” Ransdall said.

• Farnham said he’s received repeated reports of road sign theft again, and when his road workers went to investigate a recent report of piled-up road signs, the signs had been moved or perhaps stolen again.

“Originally I thought they were doing it to sell them for metal, but now I don’t think so. I think they’re just doing it out of orneriness,” Farnham said.

• Farnham said he’s getting information about replacement trucks following a fire in a flatbed truck being used as a snowplow, and hopes to have more detail for the county commission on Monday.

“Did you ever figure out what caused the fire?” Ransdall asked.

“I’ve seen a couple of people post on websites that they have had fires under the engine compartment but I think the manufacturer doesn’t want to admit it because they’d have to take responsibility,” Farnham said.

• Missouri law requires counties to pay for a complete financial report to be published each year in a local print newspaper supported by paid subscriptions, and three local media submitted bids Thursday for printing of the county financial statement. The Waynesville Daily Guide received the printing contract with a low bid of $700; the Dixon Pilot submitted a $995 bid and the Pulaski County Mirror, which is a merger of what until this month was the Richland Mirror and Pulaski County Democrat, bid $975 for the same contract.

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