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Paul Koeper, seen here in the county commission chambers shortly after taking office in January.
Larry Payne believes the reasons for paving failures on Cape Girardeau County roads need to be identified.
Speaking as chairman of the county's road and bridge advisory board, Payne told county commissioners that the majority of his board felt the less-expensive chip and seal paving was a good solution for hard surfacing at a Thursday morning commission meeting.
The board's recommendation differs from recommendations by 1st District Commissioner Paul Koeper, who wants to suspend chip and seal.
Koeper had sharp words for the advisory board for rejecting his request to stop chip and seal paving for at least a year and for the board's criticism of county road crews.
"I don't like to be backed into a corner," Koeper said. He said he has found a series of discrepancies in how the paving was laid, from multiple sources for base gravel to an inconsistent oil mixture.
Payne said the board "has no desire whatsoever to put down more failures."
Payne said his board was in overall agreement with Koeper's position and asked him to continue attending advisory board meetings.
After Koeper asked Payne what he would do if he was producing a product that ended up being defective, Payne said he would want to find the problem and fix it.
"That's all I'm asking," Koeper said.
Koeper said he was open to using chip and seal under certain circumstances, such as being used on less traveled roads and applied on a much thicker base - up to nine inches of gravel.
He emphasized that if any chip and seal paving would be done the county must be prepared to do so efficiently.
Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said the county paving policy was in some cases too rigid.
"There's no question that our policy needs to be revised," he said. But Jones disagreed with the idea of having contractors prepare roads for paving, though Koeper and Payne agreed the county lacks the proper equipment for such work.
"We didn't intend to pit neighbor against neighbor," Jones said.
He also referred to the controversy over an easement on County Road 436, as an example of roads that shouldn't require signed easements for paving.
"We've got to figure out a way to get that done," he said.
Jones said he valued the road and bridge board because it seemed fewer property owners were complaining.
Scott Bechtold, the county highway administrator, said signed road easements reduced such problems as property owners putting fences in road ditches and alleviated other disputes. But he said a new policy should include some option to allow for variances from the current requirement for a 60-foot easement, though that should be used on a very limited basis, he said, or it would dissolve the policy.
Second District Commissioner Jay Purcell said he believed private companies could probably do the road work for less than a county crew because companies could take advantage of market efficiencies. He suggested that the disagreement between Koeper and the advisory board was healthy, but said he was more concerned with citizen involvement and consistency, so taxpayers could start trusting the county more. He said the advisory board represented as many people as Jones.
"I hope it's not the intent that we just decide this next week," he said.
Purcell reminded those in the room that the overwhelming need expressed by county residents is for dust control.
He called for "due diligence and find out why chip and seal failed," he said. Purcell said there was "surely a way" to find a compromise between Koeper and the advisory board's plans. He suggested night meetings to hear from county residents.
Payne said the focus needed to be on timing - and getting bids out for this year's paving plan, whatever it may be.
Koeper agreed. "We're coming down to crunch time," he said.
Purcell asked if there was a way to correct the paving problem causes Koeper has already identified and move forward with chip and seal, as part of the test process.
County Treasurer Roger Hudson said the savings of chip and seal are only "realized on the front end ... It's a little bit disingenuous to say it costs half as much when you have to redo it twice as soon."
Payne said the advisory board had considered all the elements and "it's up to the Commission."
Koeper said he was willing to let some dead-end roads be paved with chip and seal, but not heavily for traveled roads
Look for more on this story later today on www.semissourian.com.