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The Snoop 7.24.2014

Several months ago Ava Mayor Eddie Maggard called to let me know of a meeting that would be held at the courthouse that morning. He thought I should be there because it was going to be about MoDOT’s long-range plan for highway improvements. A handful of us showed up for the unpublicized meeting. MoDOT was not represented. The meeting was being conducted by South Central Ozarks Council of Governments (SCOCOG) and Great River Associates, a Springfield engineering firm.  This meeting would lay the groundwork for a later session at which a detailed list of wants and needs would be developed for submission to MoDOT. The whole thing, of course, was contingent upon a sales tax proposal that was being proposed for the August ballot.
That proposal became Amendment 7 that will be voted on at the Aug. 5 primary – a 3/4-cent sales tax increase that would expire in 10 years. If approved, the money generated would be earmarked “solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects.” If this measure is approved, the state’s gasoline tax could not be increased during the 10-year period.
The second meeting of the ad hoc group held a few weeks later, and announced in the Douglas County Herald, drew a larger crowd of folks who have a vested interest in transportation-related projects and concerns. It was a very productive meeting that resulted in a detailed list of suggested ways MoDOT’s increased funding could help our community. The committee was to look at not only Road & Bridge projects, but also Bike & Pedestrian, Aviation, and Transit & Freight. By the end of that morning session I was pleased with the list of items we had suggested. The No. 1 recommendation we came up with included improvements to Old Highway 5 from Mansfield to Ava (the state forfeited this road to the counties several years ago after “new” Highway 5 was opened), more improvements at the Ava airport, work on West Highway 14 on Dogwood Hill to make it safer, and extending sidewalks or a walking trail from the Ava Schools to the athletic complex on Highway Y.
Our suggestions included low-cost improvements like center turn lanes and specified intersections frequented by trucks and alternate passing lanes on Highway 5 from Gainesville to Mansfield. We also suggested the development of pick-up points in the county for folks who rely on mass transit such as OATS.
About a month ago, MoDOT began touring the state, presenting their plan for the 3/4-cent sales tax. I was excited to attend the meeting at Ava City Hall; I wanted to see what they had done with our proposal that we had worked hard on and proudly submitted for consideration. What they had done with it was – not much. From what I read in the Ozark County Times and the West Plains Daily Quill, they did the same across southern Missouri.
One project they did pick up on was to make Dogwood Hill safer. It is proposed to add paved shoulders on Highway 14 from Route O to the Beaver Creek bridge.
The other three projects listed for Douglas County over the next 10 years are: resurfacing Highway 76 from Highway 5 to Highway 95; replace or repair Route ZZ bridge over Fox Creek; and replace or repair Route ZZ overflow bridge over Fox Creek.
Now, I’m not saying we should vote no on Amendment 7. I agree with Missouri Farm Bureau’s statement in favor of the sales tax, “A good road and bridge system is so vitally important to agriculture and all of rural Missouri…” Farm Bureau said, “The Missouri Highway Commission has implemented a process to fairly allocate transportation dollars to both rural and urban areas and has extensively sought the input of Missouri citizens in determining regional priorities.” I agree; they sought input.
Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions says the tax, if approved, would charge Missouri consumers an extra “toll” so that 18-wheelers can use the highways without paying any more money to maintain them.
Thomas Shrout Jr., treasurer for MBTS, describes Amendment 7 as the largest tax increase in state history. He does acknowledge, however, that prescription medicines and food are exempt from the sales tax.
Assuming MoDOT does legitimately need more money to maintain the state’s highway system, what voters need to decide is whether it is better to increase the gasoline tax and raise the price at the pump, or increase the sales tax and let all consumers share the pain.
Missouri’s gasoline tax is currently 17.3 cents per gallon, and one of the lowest in the country, according to Shrout. The gasoline tax has not been increased in 20 years, Shrout says.
The sales tax is expected to generate some $5.4 billion for transportation over the next 10 years, with 10 percent of that to be split among cities and counties for transportation projects that meet the needs of residents and businesses. So, although local projects seemed to have been slighted in the overall master plan, there is a chance the local community would receive additional money through allocations to cities and counties.

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