Road panel sets Feb. 15 deadline

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Cape Girardeau County Road and Bridge Advisory Board voted Wednesday evening to give county highway administrator Scott Bechtold until Feb. 15 to obtain and file the easements needed to complete a $3.4 million road building program in 2008.

The board, reacting to the Monday decision of the county commision to push forward with putting hard surfaces on 21 miles of county roads this year, met in special session. It wants the bid process for this year's roadwork to go more smoothly than in the fall, when a chip-and-seal bid process drew no proposals from contractors.

The 11 members deliberated for 90 minutes Wednesday. They said they want county commissioners to follow the advisory board's recommendations for $3.4 million worth of road paving projects, and the deadline is intended to make that possible, members said during the meeting.

An aggressive road program is necessary this year for the board to maintain its credibility, chairman Larry Payne said.

County voters approved a half-cent sales tax in August 2006 to finance road projects and support law enforcement. While some roads were paved last year, the effort fell short of the hoped-for progress.

Credibility is important to the board members, who each represent a township in the county. Several members have spent numerous hours digging through records in Bechtold's office to discover which roads had the easements necessary to meet county rules.

"If you ever want to drive someone crazy, hold them accountable for results, but do not give them authority," said Ken Evans, the board's vice chairman.

An example was on hand. Roland Sander, who farms 300 acres along County Road 361 and County Road 363, signed easements year ago, he said. But the paperwork was not properly filed by the county's highway department.

Bechtold told the board he knew easements are a problem. He said it was caused in part by a policy that easement agreements must be completed for an entire stretch of road before they can be filed with the county recorder.

One solution to keeping track of the easements is to file them at the county recorder's office as they are received, and the board directed Bechtold to do so.

The projects for 2008 include paving nearly 21 miles of road at various points around the county. Nine miles of road will be paved with asphalt, called hot mix. More than 12 miles elsewhere are destined for a low-cost chip-and-seal surface. Some of the spending is to grade roads for future paving.

Many landowners, however, distrust the county. Joyce Horky, who lives on County Road 380, also attended the meeting. She also thinks chip-and-seal paving is fine. But she won't sign an easement agreement allowing the county to use 30 feet of her property. Ten feet would be used for utilities.

"I'm just pretty adamant: No. When the utilities come through, they will not leave my land as it was. The utilities have enough money. They can buy my land," she said. But she is willing to give the county 20 feet of her property.

For a complete list of county highway projects, visit www.showme.net/CapeCounty/roadandbridge/....

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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