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About a dozen people attended the meeting at the Ava Community Center, including some former MoDOT employees of the community.
Matt Seiler, assistant district engineer in District 8, Springfield, explained the need to reduce the number of district offices.
Media information released by MoDOT Director Kevin Keith explained that MoDOT is facing a severe decline in funding and an inability to match federal funds in the near future. For that reason, the plan presented includes reducing the size of the department’s staff by 1,200, closing 135 faciliities and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment. The proposed direction will save $512 million that will be used for vital road and bridge projects, the report says.
A new five-year construction program presented by MoDOT projects expenditures of about $600 million per year – about half of the $1.2 billion per year averaged for the past five years.
The department’s plan includes reducing the number of district offices, which administer the state’s transportation program at the regional level, from 10 to seven. MoDOT’s current district boundaries have been virtually unchanged since 1922, when many state roads were still gravel and MoDOT used mules and wagons, the report says.
The Drury Maintenance Building will be closed as the new plan is implemented, leaving Ava the only MoDOT building in the county.
That will mean slower response time to emergency incidents in the county.
Ava Mayor Eddie Maggard questioned the cost of fuel and wear and tear on equipment which will have to travel longer distances. Seiler also said there will be less snow removal done at night, a practice that actually began last winter.
MoDOT plans to close its district offices in Macon, Joplin and Willow Springs, but will continue to maintain area offices in those cities and have a strong presence in every county in the state, according to Keith.
This consolidation, coupled with the combination of several Central Office divisions, will enable the department to reduce the size of its workforce by 1,200, the number of its facilities by 135 and its equipment inventory by more than 740 pieces. The staff reduction will occur through attrition and transfers, and, as a last step, layoffs.
“We don’t like having to do this, and we aren’t proposing these changes lightly, because we know they will be personal and painful for many people, but heading in this direction is the right thing to do. It’s what we have to do to survive,” Keith said. “Without these actions, Missouri would lose millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation.”
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission is expected to act on the proposal at its June 8 meeting. If approved, the recommendations will begin to be put into place immediately with full implementation scheduled for December of 2012.
MoDOT will continue to hold community briefings throughout the state to explain the new plan.