MEXICO—Two years after Audrain County voters extended the ¼-cent sales tax for small structures, the program is still going strong with significant projects completed across the entire county in 2023.
In 2016, voters approved the original ¼-cent sales tax to go towards small structure projects. Two years ago, voters approved another ballot measure to extend the tax for an additional ten years. This year alone, the projects have totaled 30 improvements for small structures throughout Audrain County. Over the life of the program, there have been many improvements in all special road districts in the county.
“We are very thankful the voters saw this need and approved it,” Associate Commissioner Tracy Graham said. “Audrain County Engineer Brian Haeffner has done an amazing job with identifying and classifying problem areas and putting together an annual project list. We have been able to be quite aggressive with the list of projects.”
Each year Haeffner travels roadways throughout the county and inspects every small structure. Through these inspections, Haeffner rates each structure on a variety of conditions. The most crucial reason for replacement and repair deals with the structure’s overall condition. Another is ease of use for agriculture equipment.
“So many rural structures accommodate the size of machinery from the past which were typically pretty narrow,” Associate Commissioner Leslie Meyer said. “As we know, machinery is only getting wider and many of these structures are problematic for our farmers when they are trying to get a combine from one field to the other or a large grain cart. This program is essential for Audrain County’s agriculture.”
The county defines a small structure as anything less than 20-feet in length. Those projects can range from a culvert replacement to larger concrete box structures, which allow water to flow underneath the roadways.
Two of the projects were bridges and are located on Audrain County Road 709 (built in 1927) and 525 (built in 1935). In total, these projects cost approximately $1.8 million and qualify for a soft-match credit from MoDot for future bridge projects. According to Presiding Commissioner Alan Winders, both of the aging bridges had weight restrictions and the new projects moved the restrictions to today’s weight standards from MoDOT. He also said one of the projects fixed a potential problem for semi-trucks traveling on the road.
“The bridge on 525 was extremely close to the intersection with Audrain Road 532, which made it difficult for longer vehicles to turn. The project included moving the bridge to allow for those larger vehicles to turn,” he said.
The Audrain County Road and Bridge crews led the projects with 16 small structures during the spring and summer months. To accommodate for more projects, the Audrain County Commission requested bids from outside companies. After Haeffner examined each bid and made his recommendations, the commission awarded projects to Sharp Excavating, T&B Trucking and Excavating, Brenneke Construction, and Kleinsorge Excavating.
In addition to these projects, a bi-annual inspection with the Missouri Department of Transportation and Haeffner showed a need for other repairs on county bridges, which Audrain County Common 1 crews have been busy completing this summer and fall.
The county commission, Haeffner and the Audrain County Road and Bridge Supervisor Travis Meyer are currently working on the plan for proposed projects in 2024.
“A lot of work has already been done in the county and we have a lot more to do,” Winders said.