The Cherokee County Commission met Tuesday for a brief half-day session at the courthouse. All of the commissioners discussed receiving many phone complaints about the condition of the gravel roads following the warm weather thawing.

County Road and Bridge Superintendent Leonard Vanatta compared the current condition to when he first began work for the county in 1974.

“Several sections of the rural roads are actually worse than when I first started here,” he said. “And most of this is due to the poor performance of the crushed rock limestone we have to put down on the graded roads. It just dissolves and melts into the ground with the rain.”

Cherokee County currently follows EPA guidelines to reduce silica dust. They spread the crushed limestone instead of the much cheaper gravel of the past.

“This is all thanks to the Joplin Globe and KOAM Channel 7,” said Commissioner Pat Collins. “It was them who insisted that we have to do this – I hope you print that in the paper.”

The cost difference for the county regarding the new crushed rock is very large.

“We can get gravel for 50 cents a ton,” said Collins. “The crushed limestone costs $4.50 per ton,” Vanatta said. “What used to cost the county $50,000 annually now costs a half million,” Collins declared.

Superintendent Vanatta discussed the difficulty repairing the bad spots until the roads dry up some more.

“I had two trucks out earlier this morning,” he said. “They were just sinking and making the situation worse. I went ahead and pulled them off of the project for the time being. I need either a hard rain or several days of bright sun and wind.”

Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand asked about getting FEMA emergency aid money to help with the roads.

“There is a combined FEMA meeting with Crawford County coming up,” said County EMS Coordinator Jason Allison. “We could attend that and see what we can come up with.”

In other business the county chose to proceed with the reverse 911 program. This is a storm notification process where residents are notified of approaching storms by a phone call rather than a storm siren.

“I had 15 teams out notifying people of the advancing snow storm,” said Allison. “The notification system would eliminate all of that travel.”

“This is much cheaper to implement than providing siren alerts,” Allison added. “Jasper County in Missouri did this and we can model our program from their experience.”

The 911 system will cost approximately $3500 to implement. With discounts and donations, the cost to the county taxpayer will be nothing.

“They will cover it all,” said Allison. “And we may be able to use some of the 911 tax money to cover the $8900 maintenance costs.”

County Attorney John Bullard suggested there may be diversion monies that could help with the maintenance costs.

“I think they could be used for this,” said Bullard. “Taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay anything.”

After considering all of the advantages, especially the fact that it is cheaper and more effective than sirens, the commissioners approved the action.

“It will take about four weeks to complete the installation process,” Allison said.

Cities will be allowed to use the system but will have to pay for the costs to each resident.

“We can give the cities the opportunity to buy in,” added Allison. “If they use it, then they will be responsible for their portion of the bill.”

Washington Electronics from Pittsburg made a presentation to the commission for the current sirens installed in the county.

“We can repair the current electronic sirens you have and get them working properly,” said George Washington.

Allison and Sheriff David Groves discussed having insurance companies cover the costs of hazardous material spills.

“I’ve had to keep county workers out on spill sites for very long periods of time,” said Allison. “A county in Arkansas bills the insurance companies if the person responsible is out of county,” said Groves.

In financial business the commissioners asked Treasurer Juanita Hodgsen about some figures and Sheriff Groves about a lower amount of sick leave used by his deputies. Commissioner Garvin motioned to approve the payroll, Collins seconded the action and it passed unanimously.

The commission will meet next Monday, Jan. 25 at 9:00 a.m.