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County, MoDOT hash out communication issues

Justin Addison, Editor/Publisher
Posted 1/9/24

A somewhat heated dispute between Howard County commissioners and the local Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) shed seems to be resolved, at least for now. The two sides hashed out their …

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County, MoDOT hash out communication issues


A somewhat heated dispute between Howard County commissioners and the local Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) shed seems to be resolved, at least for now. The two sides hashed out their differences during a meeting held in the commissioners’ chambers last month.

The crux of the conflict seemed to revolve around communications. The Howard County MoDOT shed, located south of Fayette on MO 240, no longer has a local phone line, and the department insists all calls be made via the department’s statewide 888 number. The county’s three commissioners detailed their frustrations with what they deemed unfulfilled commitments combined with their inability to reach local MoDOT personnel.

“Our main complaints are about approaches and culverts plugged, and the lack of being able to get ahold of anybody,” Western District Commissioner Mat Freese said during the Dec. 14 meeting.

MoDOT stresses that all communications run through its 888 number, and that a live person will direct calls to local personnel.

“The road shed does not have a phone,” explained Jimmy Williams, MoDOT superintendent over Howard, Cooper, Morgan, and Moniteau counties. “There is no landline for the Fayette shed. There is no answering machine. Everything needs to go through customer service.”

Williams also explained there is an additional telephone number for emergencies, that the 911 office and highway patrol use. He insisted that during an emergency such as a wash out at the entrance to a county road, calling the Howard County response phone will alert crews to the area.

“That’s another issue. We don’t even have that number,” Freese said. “That’s kind of ridiculous in my eyes.”

Brad Pefferman, maintenance supervisor for the Fayette shed, shared his mobile phone number with the commission, but explained that he is not allowed to answer when he is driving, as per MoDOT regulations.

Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Stockhorst said citizens often complain to the commission about road issues, and problems that have not been fixed a year after notifying MoDOT.

“We have had people come into this office and on the phone and say they talked to Brad about coming off the road going off the highway and there's a big drop off and there’s a concern about it. And they say they’ve talked to Brad a year ago. And Brad’s done nothing about it,” Stockhorst said. “We get that quite often. What are we supposed to tell them?”

Williams explained that repairs are a matter of priority. “You got to understand that approaches for county roads, well maybe a priority for you guys, is not a priority for us. So, county road aggregate maintenance, yes we’re going to go out there and we’re going to fix approaches, but it’s not going to take priority over any other maintenance activity that we do.”

Williams guaranteed the problems are getting checked out, but it all comes down to priority for MoDOT. He contends that the department is understaffed, and that workers from the Howard County shed often help out in northern Boone County, which the department considers higher priority due to more traffic.

MoDOT considers itself to be one big team, Williams said, and that means rededicating workers from low-priority counties to high-priority counties. 

“We restructured Central District and Howard County helps take care of basically the northwest portion of Boone County,” Williams said. “We’re going to go to where the work is and where we can get the best bang for our buck… and we’re going to go where or we can make the most difference.”

MoDOT is the beneficiary of a fuel tax Gov. Parson railroaded into law through executive order in 2021. The tax increases each year for five years, finally topping out at a total 29.5 cents per gallon for MoDOT. A provision of the new tax allows Missouri taxpayers file for refunds, but they must keep a tally of how much tax was paid every time they fill up.  

For about two decades, Missouri voters have expressed their lack of faith in MoDOT by failing to pass tax increases. The most recent effort of the legislature to hike the gas tax by 10 cents was shot down by voters in 2018.

Pefferman said prioritization comes down to the number lane miles driven. “It all comes from that fuel tax and gets divided out.”

However, Pefferman said, money from Howard County’s materials budget is not being spent in Boone County. 

Several approaches have gotten so bad, Freese said, that the county has had to repair them because of MoDOT’s absence.

“We have contacted out there to the shed to be able to do a joint effort and we’ve had to do it ourselves,” Freese explained. “Even though it was agreed upon that it was going to be a joint effort and we have to end up doing it by ourselves and get ghosted on it.”

Such approaches include county roads 120 and 130 where they meet State Route A. According to county road and bridge supervisor Mike Hilgedick, MoDOT had agreed to put rock down on its side of the approaches and provide flagging and traffic control to prevent car accidents, but never showed up.

Freese added that the county has a list of approaches dating back three years that have not been addressed by MoDOT.

And while the improvement or widening of approaches falls to either the county or the road district, Pefferman agreed that it is MoDOT’s responsibility to maintain them.

“It just seemed like our low volume routes and routes just got so bad,” said Presiding Commissioner Jerimiah Johnmeyer. “And for [county crews], it’s hard. Once it gets bad, it’s hard to keep up.”

Despite the disagreements between commissioners and the department, the meeting was somewhat amenable. The two sides agreed to keep communications open and hold yearly in-person meetings to address any problems. In the meantime, Pefferman agreed to focus on backlogs and other areas of concern here in Howard County. He already has plans to work on state routes AA and E. Local crews will also begin preliminary work on MO 240 before the highway receives a complete overlay in the spring.

The number to call to report roadway emergencies or other issues to MoDOT is 1-888-275-6636.


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