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South Central Missourians Upset After MoDOT Vote

Missouri transportation officials have approved a plan to cut positions, close facilities and sell equipment to bolster money for road and bridge projects. But one small town in southern Missouri that prides itself as being a “transportation town” is crying foul. KSMU’s Scott Butler reports.

MoDOT’s plan calls for district offices in Macon, Joplin and Willow Springs to close.

Wendell Bailey, a lifelong resident of Willow Springs who also served in Congress, wants to fight this issue head-on.

“That’s a mistake. And we’ve got to convince them that the state of Missouri is too big to just have two district offices [in southern Missouri], one in Springfield and one in Sikeston. That’s simply not a good plan. It’s a mistake, and we’ve got to change it and mitigate the damages,” he said.

Bailey also owns the Bailey’s Chevrolet, which has been turned into a staging ground for the fight to save District 9. He says locals are gearing up for a community meeting to discuss what their options are now that the Highway and Transportation Commission has already voted to approve the cuts.

According to MoDOT’s website, the move will save $512 million by 2015. Under the plan, about 1,200 positions will be cut, 131 facilities will be closed and 740 pieces of equipment will be sold. Bailey says he believes that there needs to be a south central district office.

“These cuts are being made all across the state and that’s not the focus of our problem. We agree with their cuts for downsizing the state of Missouri’s transportation department. What we don’t agree with is that they are eliminating this entire south central Missouri district office,” he said.

Bailey says he wants to convince MoDOT that he and the others working with him on this effort have a better plan. He says MoDOT’s new district map should mirror the Department of Conservation’s map, which includes three districts across southern Missouri, not two.

For KSMU News, I’m Scott Butler.