OREGON COUNTY -- The Oregon County commissioners have been working with the Missouri Department of Transportation to get road improvements in the works for Oregon County.
"It is hard to get much done in our small counties because all they (MoDOT) look at is the larger populated counties," Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren said. "When our District Engineer, Tom Stehn, presents what his area needs the whole state votes on each project and the populated areas always seem to get the most votes, Warren said. He added that Oregon County is scheduled to receive some overlay and resurfacing on some local roads in 2005 and 2006.
"Commissioners Buddy Wright and John Wrenfrow and myself have been pushing hard to get Highway 63 four-laned between Thayer and West Plains," he said.
Warren said he and the other commissioners believe the future of the local economy depends on the availability of goods coming through Oregon County as well as the ease of moving goods and services without delays. "The Howell County Commission and the cities of West Plains and Alton, Koshkonong and Thayer have been working with us to see this come to pass. Again we get outvoted when these projects go against projects in more populated areas."
The presiding commissioner said those involved have decided to change their strategy and try to make the case that there is not a major highway connecting the Kansas City area to Memphis, two major cities along the route. "We believe that the majority of traffic coming through Thayer comes down Highway 60 from Springfield. We would like anyone interested in this project to contact Tom Stehn of MoDOT and Sens. Bond and Talent and also Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson," he said.
The commissioners said another project they are interested in is the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This federal act allows counties with forest service land, such as Oregon County, to go back 15 years and choose the highest three years that they received the most money for roads and schools and average those three years and the county would receive that amount of money for seven more years.
"That bill expires in September 2006 and we are trying to get the bill extended for seven more years. This bill also allows the commission to use 15 to 20 percent of this money for special projects on the local forest, such as reimbursements for emergency service costs on public lands," he said.
The commissioner said timber sales and mining are declining every year and the counties would not receive as much money if the program is not extended.
"With the new revised Forest Service Plan going into effect soon, it would probably affect the timber sales even more," Warren said.
He said he encourages those interested in this project to also elected officials. The Oregon County Commission meets Mondays and Fridays in their office at the courthouse in Alton.
Anyone with a need or a concern is urged to come by and visit with them or call them at 417-778-7475.