Dent County’s transportation needs remain the same, with the four priority projects in a slightly different order, commissioners told MRPC and MoDOT officials Monday.

In a meeting with MoDOT engineer Preston Kramer and MRPC director Bonnie Prigge, commissioners were asked to rank top projects in order of importance. Choices will be formally presented by county representatives at the December MRPC Transportation Advisory Committee meeting.

“Then there will be the prioritization process where we come out with the ranked list,” Prigge said. “We then work with MoDOT, given the dollars available, on what can come into the STIP (State Transportation Improvement Plan).”

The county’s top priority is the same as last year—the Highway 19 bridge over Gladden Creek. The truss bridge is in poor condition, according to MoDOT, and there are safety concerns with the narrowness of the bridge. A 20-foot minimum width has been recommended for the two-lane structure. Engineering work on the improvements has been authorized by MoDOT, Kramer said.

Moving up to No. 2 on the priority list is improvements to intersection of Highway 19 and Roosevelt Street in Salem. The intersection is dangerous due to sight limitations. Kramer said turn lanes could be added to improve safety, but commissioners are still concerned about traffic being unable to stop in time upon reaching the intersection.

Turn lanes may be added during the next repaving project. Moving turning cars to a different lane would help, he said.

The intersection doesn’t carry enough traffic to justify a stoplight and the gradual reduction of speed from 55 to 35 mph is already posted, Kramer told commissioners. “Reduced speed ahead” signs are not recommended in that scenario. Sight distance is adequate for 35 mph but not when two cars are waiting to turn, he said.

“I go through there every day taking my granddaughter to school and it’s a nightmare,” said Second District commissioner Gary Larson, later adding, “They come over that hill fast.”

The No, 3 priority is safety concerns about the long, narrow bridge on Highway 32 over the West Fork of the Huzzah River at Boss. “Structurally it’s okay,” Kramer said. “It’s getting toward the end of its life, I would say, based on how old it is.” He estimated it is around 80 years old.

No. 4 is the Highway TT bridge over Crooked Creek at Sligo due to flooding concerns. Kramer said three new 36-inch diameter pipes were added recently by MoDOT to the existing pipes to improve water flow. “So it should handle water better during all conditions,” he said. A new bridge would cost $1.2 million.

“The low water crossing handles traffic fine 95 to 97 percent of the time, but there are those times you have flash flood events where that’s closed for a little while,” he said.

Projects on the MoDOT needs list that have received funding are the alignment of Highway 68 and adding two-foot shoulders from Highway 19 to the Phelps County line in 2020 and a new bridge on Highway FF over Norman Creek in 2021. Engineering work has been on the Highway FF project.

In other business, commissioners signed paperwork with U.S. Bank on a five-year lease-purchase agreement for the purchase of two new Fabick Caterpillar 140 road graders. The graders will cost $330,000 after trade. The county is trading in two six-year-old John Deere graders and also returning two Caterpillar 120 models due to safety concerns and lack of power.

Under commission reports, First District commissioner Dennis Purcell said his entire crew would be make the final concrete pour on the county road 6580 low-water crossing over Pigeon Creek in hopes of having it reopen Friday or Monday.

Crews were also scheduled to grade 5600 and, time permitting, 5150, and cut brush on 6210 and 2400. His district received 1.3 inches of rain over the weekend, he said, which improved grading conditions.

Larson said his crews would be grading county roads 4020, 2520, 2540 and 2530 and hauling material to 4020 and 2530. Brush cutting was planned on 3270, 3273 and 3275.

Presiding commissioner Darrell Skiles said he wants to remind prospective candidates for county assessor to contact the commission as soon as possible. Assessor Tina Whitaker is retiring Dec. 31 and the commission has 15 days after that date to appoint a successor.

At the meeting Thursday, Skiles reported meeting with the Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management board on Tuesday. The board awarded 13 grants totaling $192,322. Montauk State Park received a grant of $7,987.

The commission also heard a monthly report from economic development director Sally Burbridge, who also went over the recently completed Economic Development Strategic Plan.

Sheriff Bob Wells attended the meeting to discuss the new jail training schedule for when new employees are hired. Circuit clerk Becky Swiney appeared before the commission about plumbing for a kitchen sink between the courtroom and judge’s bathroom. The commission approved the request.

Under commission reports, Purcell said work was continuing on the county road 6580 low water crossing project, while crews also graded county road 5590, cut brush and did mowing on 6210, and performed vehicle maintenance.

Larson said crews would be grading county roads 2020 and 2025, hauling material to 2020 and 4020 and cutting brush on 3333 and 3270.