Saline County Commissioners plan to attend a Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission meeting Thursday to learn more about a proposal to shift the flow of funding in the state Off-System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation program.
The PTRPC Transportation Advisory Council will hear a report from a MoDOT representative who is expected to answer questions about how and why the state is considering a move to direct bridge improvement funds through regional planning commissions rather than directly to counties.
Presiding Commissioner Tom Stallings said the commission has consulted with PTRPC officials, but there is still more to learn about the proposal.
Stallings said the reason given for the shift is that state officials are worried federal funding will be reduced because some counties are not spending their allocated federal bridge improvement funds.
Saline County is not one of them, he said.
"We have plenty of bridges that need to be replaced, and we're moving them right along," he said.
What worries commissioners is the potential loss of local control over bridge improvement projects if funding is directed through the planning commission.
"To me, every time you put in another layer of bureaucracy, the local government loses some control," he said.
Northern District Commissioner Charlie Guthrie noted that Saline County has made good use of the program since it began.
Southern District Commission Monte Fenner said when commissioners were told $60 million was not being spent, commissioners had a response:
"We told him we'd like to have some of that," he said. "We've got places we could use it."
Fenner also questioned the wisdom of reducing BRO funding.
"These are jobs," he said. "We ought to keep jobs and build infrastructure."
In addition to current bridge projects, the county is beginning preliminary work on two more, the Wilton Springs bridge and a smaller bridge about a mile south of it.
Fenner said property owners in the area are very interested in seeing those bridges improved. The Wilton Springs bridge was condemned and closed in 2007.
Saline County is represented on the Transportation Advisory Council by Stephen Allegri, Gene Cassell, Charles Guthrey, Ted Haling, David Peterman, Beverly Richtermeyer, Greg Swift, A.J. Utlaut and Dale Zank.
In other business, the commission voted to endorse the nomination of Arrow Rock Landing to the National Register of Historic Places. The Saline County Historic Preservation Commission approved the nomination Thursday, Jan. 3.
The nomination will now be presented to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
The commission also approved payments of $5,420 and $1,300 to County Collector Grace Miles for work collecting taxes on behalf of the City of Marshall and a levee district in the county.