To pave or not to pave — that isn’t the question

Posted

To the Editor:

Life is full of choices and choices always have consequences. In our instance, we chose to live within the city limits of Owensville.

We, with at least 50 percent of the county’s residents, live on a paved road. Living on a paved road or city streets provides us with some of the qualities of life we desire: a dedicated street crew to plow snow, a lot less dust, fewer rock pocks in our windshield, tires that have fewer flats and a longer life and if you live in the city of Owensville, a street sweeper to keep our properties swept.

With every perk comes disadvantages: we pay higher taxes than those that live on paved roads outside the city limits who generally spend more time and money to travel to school, shop, church or visit friends.

This newspaper recently carried and article that said the County Commission had been approached about expanding a limited chip and seal program to provide more “hard surface” roads. This is certainly admirable and should be the goal of every county resident but wait a minute.

Why did people choose to live on a gravel road? They want to own more acreage. Often I have heard they don’t want to pay city taxes or be told what to do on their property and like old Daniel Boone, “They want more elbow room!”

This too is a choice and choices often have opportunities as well. Why not seek the County Commission to pave the road to their property. Their wives, like mine don’t want to be eating dust, cleaning dust, seeing the nice green grass not so green, watching a tornadic cloud of dust with every passing vehicle, watching windows turn to mud with the rain or the dew along with everything else on their buildings but worst of all have vehicles caked in mud and dust 24/7/365.

In the 1970’s, I was the lender for the husband and wife team that was instrumental in ending the burning at the old city dump on Highway P. I knew very few people that worked harder than them!

Their hard work paid off. I even remember how much my quarterly trash bill was back then. My monthly water and sewer bill is twice what the annual trash bill was but, oh, I digress. I could have lived outside the city limits and had a different set of issues, but I choose to let someone else have that aggravation.

Things became more difficult in the late 70’s as DNR started to regulate the trash business with statewide landfill requirements and cash bonds or surety bonds were required to cover inspection fees and reclamation fees if the regulated company “skipped town.”

The reclamation period had a longer life than each of the filled-in former clay pits. This process repeated itself over and over again until a large number of these cash surety bond obligations were met.

In the 80’s these regulations changed again and my customer adapted and was required to build a large, expandable landfill in the Farnburg pit area. The area was core-drilled, graded and covered with a massive, rubber membrane that sloped to allow the leachate to pool at one end, be pumped off, hauled and pumped into waste disposal plant in Jefferson City.

All went well until…it was time to retire. No complaints that I ever heard as the lender.

The trouble started when a large landfill operator saw the benefit of taking care of customers for miles around and the landfill company purchased the business and filed an application to expand the landfill and to increase the height. Have you seen the landfill at Valley Park or Jefferson City?

Wow, the neighbors were up in arms, contriving every imaginable conspiracy theory conceivable in the trash business. An organization sprung up to oppose the landfill, this newspaper wrote editorials in opposition to a “mountain of trash” is okay but not in my backyard.

The County Commission got involved and passed a regulation that the landfill could not be higher than 20 feet, a number obviously aimed at one business and spent who knows how much money to defend their selfish actions. The streams would be polluted. Contrast this today with all of the CAFOs.

So how did I go from paving roads to landfills to CAFOs?

The large national trash hauling business were reasonable people. In answer to dust concerns on the “Old Bay Road,” they promised to mitigate it by paving the road. In private discussions I had with them involving the cash bonds and transfers, economic development came up and one of the items discussed was tipping fees and how they might benefit the county. One of those benefits was a county use fee of some sort involving a part of the tipping fees reaching the county coffers that could be used to start paving the county roads. A transfer station was also discussed.

This riled up residents of the county and the County Commission would have nothing of it! I don’t know if any of this was ever discussed outside my office.

What I do know is, had reasonable and meaningful discussions taken place, it would have been possible to be 25 years into a program to pave every road in Gasconade County with an opportunity to have someone else pay for it. How sweet is that?

“The Goose that laid the golden egg” has likely moved to another county. You may have noticed that Phelps County has many miles of paved roads. They also have a landfill, transfer station and guess where the area office is for this national company?

No OpEd is worth the time it took to write without a solution. Maybe the landfill is still a viable option. A large percentage of the county’s residents live within city limits and already pay taxes for their street paving and upkeep.

Is it too much to ask to have our county residents outside the city limits form their own road paving district to systematically pave and maintain their roads? That’s what city residents do. Maybe a use tax could be implemented on internet sales to level the playing field for our brick and mortar merchants to raise the needed funds. A county-wide sales tax was mentioned but the Owensville and Hermann’s sales tax rate is already more than 8.00 percent.

Should no other alternative be found, the much desired and needed road paving in the county should be borne by those that are the greatest beneficiary.

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