Restoration of Mississippi County roads will take '50-truck operation,' commissioner says

Sunday, May 22, 2011

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Repairing Mississippi County's infrastructure is going to take a lot of time or a lot of money -- and maybe both.

With water receding enough in some areas of the spillway to reveal land again, county commissioners began discussing disaster recovery efforts during their regular meeting Thursday.

The county has 229 miles of gravel road, 95 miles of asphalt, five miles of concrete and 25 miles of dirt or sand roads, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay.

How much of that roadway is in the spillway really doesn't matter, according to Presiding County Commissioner Carlin Bennett, as many roads outside of the spillway were damaged by local flooding and rain. Bennett estimated 100,000 acres in the county flooded outside of the spillway.

"I don't believe we're going to have to distinguish" between flooded roads in or outside of the spillway, Bennett said. "A flood is a flood. The county was declared a disaster area, not the spillway."

While the county should receive assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance Grant Program, it will be hard on the county to come up the 15 percent in local matching funds, according to DeLay.

Some county residents have expressed concern that it could take the county a decade to restore county roads if only county equipment and labor is used, according to commissioners.

Restoring county roads in a timely manner will require hiring contractors for "a large-scale, 50-truck operation," Commissioner Robert Jackson said.

Bennett said it may take as much as 3,200 tons of chat for each mile to re-establish a good 18-foot-wide gravel road. That amount of chat would be about six inches deep when placed on the road and should compact down to a four-inch cap, he said.

Donald Bond of Donald Bond Construction in Sikeston advised it may only take five inches of chat to get a four-inch cap, however.

Asked whether road repair efforts will require stockpiling materials, Bond said his company can do about 1.5 to 2 miles per day of gravel road caps which is about 60-70 truck loads dumped in place on the road and then spread.

"That's the way we would do it," Bond said, as stockpiling increases both the time to do a job and the cost. "For us, we would not stockpile anything," he said.

DeLay said that in addition to restoring county roads, "every bridge in the spillway will have to be inspected by engineers."

Bennett said Richard Wallace, county road and bridge superintendent, estimated the cost of cleaning county road ditches will be about $2,000 per mile for one side.

Some county residents are hoping FEMA will open a disaster recovery help center like the one opened for New Madrid County in Morehouse at a central location in the county, according to commissioners.

While the county has had disaster declarations in the past, "we never had anything of this magnitude," DeLay said.

Bennett said FEMA officials have stated that a tornado disaster is easier for them to deal with than a flood disaster as tornado damage is immediately visible whereas officials have to wait for waters to recede before they are able to complete damage assessments for floods.

In related discussion, a farmer's question about a farmhand moving a house trailer into the spillway has made county officials aware of yet another issue the county will have to deal with.

DeLay, who serves as the county's flood plain administrator, advised commissioners that all new construction and substantial improvements in the spillway must comply with flood plain management elevation requirements.

Substantial improvements are defined as "anything over 50 percent of the preflood market value," DeLay said.

DeLay said the base flood elevations are based on 100-year flood levels.

Failure to keep structures in compliance with flood plain elevation requirements could result in the entire county being suspended from coverage in the National Flood Insurance Program.

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