Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials announced changes in the upcoming winter road maintenance schedule at the November meeting of the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEPC).
Dan Salisbury, MoDOT assistant district engineer, presented committee members with a map highlighting what the agency considers to be high priority roads, which are slated to have continuous salt and snow removal efforts. Other roads, designated as low priority roads, will only be salted on hills, curves and intersections.
"Our funding is not only dropping, it's falling off a cliff," Salisbury said. "We have to designate our priority options. We have (project) commitments we have to keep, we need to keep our major roads in good condition, hold our own on bridges and improve minor roads.
"The bulk of our spending for winter is $41 million," he continued, "followed by signage at $29 million, striping the roadways at $19 million, mowing at $18 million and pavement at $79 million. We plan to take the top four and make them more efficient."
In doing so, MoDOT officials hope to free more funds for paving roads.
"Everyone knows in the midst of any storm there comes a point when snow removal efforts are no longer making an impact," he continued. "This winter, we're going to send crews home when it reaches that point."
Salisbury said skeleton crews will remain on duty to address emergency situations, and other tools, such as highway message boards and the MoDOT website, will offer hazardous road condition information for travelers.
"We can choose to buy one ton of salt or one ton of asphalt," Salisbury said. "The cost is about the same. We choose to buy the asphalt."
As a result of MoDOT's cost-shifting measures, local emegency responders and law enforcement officials will have to deal more hazardous road conditions than seen in previous years. The impact will also be felt by some industries that rely heavily on trucking operations in rural areas, such as dairy and poultry farms and transportation of feed and grain for livestock.
MoDOT offers a new contact number for customer service at 1-888-275-6636. Lines will be manned 24 hours per day during inclement weather conditions.
In other business, LEPC members were told about several conferences and training opportunities coming up within the next several weeks.
According to Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton, one good conference responders might consider attending is the annual Four Corners Conference, scheduled for Dec. 1 through Dec. 3 at the Radisson Hotel in Branson.
The upcoming 23rd State Emergency Management Agency's annual conference, scheduled from May 3-6, 2011, will once again be held at Chateau on the Lake in Branson. Reservations for next year's event are already being accepted.
"This will be the last year that SEMA will host it in Branson," said Compton. "They plan to move it to different locations within the state. We aren't sure how that will work, but that's their plan."
In other news, Compton told members that emergency responders in the future would be "triage tagging" patients in a test of the new emergency medical system. This will allow emergency responders to
triage patients in mass care situations and track them to whatever facility they are dispatched for treatment.
Testing of the system will allow responders and hospitals to learn how effective the process will in the event of a large scale incident in which several hundred people are injured and need to be transported to various hospitals. If one facility becomes overwhelmed with patients and the
ambulance is diverted, the next facility that scans the bar-coded tag will be able to more accurately keep track of patients.
The next meeting of the LEPC will be at 10 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2011, at the Monett Justice Center, which is located at 1901 E. Cleveland.