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Monday, May 30, 2016

MoDOT official says changes won't affect service

Friday, May 20, 2011

Becky Baltz, District 7 engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, explained changes coming in a department-wide reorganization. A map of the new districts is at center, showing how District 7, based in Joplin, and District 8, based in Springfield, will be consolidated. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
"We will continue to supply good service as we always have," said Becky Baltz, District 7 engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), at a public meeting at the Lawrence County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Baltz is visiting every county in the district to explain the reorganization of MoDOT's districts and staff as part of an effort to save $512 million over the next four years.

The reorganization plan was introduced at the last quarterly meeting of the Missouri Highway Commission. The issue is up for passage at the June 8 meeting, which will be held in Jefferson City instead of Hannibal because of the significance of the issue.

According to Baltz, MoDOT has operated 10 districts since 1920. Under the new plan, there will be only seven districts. The old District 7, based in Joplin, will merge with the old District 8, based in Springfield.

Some of the counties on the edges were being reassigned. Bates and St. Clair counties were moving to the Kansas City district. Hickory County is moving to the Central District.

Baltz will become the district engineer for the new Southwest District. District 8 engineer Kirk Juranas will head up the new Central District, operating out of Jefferson City.

The reorganization calls for reducing MoDOT staff by 1,200 employees, closing 135 facilities to save $41 million and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment worth $44 million. Baltz said 27 percent of the staff in project delivery will be cut, 31 percent of the administrative support staff will be cut and 12 percent of people in operations will be dropped.

Many employees were being reassigned and their new positions had not yet been determined. New district management teams would be in place by August.

Maintenance facilities would be reorganized before winter. A number will close, including those in Jenkins and Sarcoxie.

"Most of the everyday response is done from the field locations," Baltz said. "They are the ones who are the everyday contact. We will still have a lot of these people out in the field."

Consolidation of the district offices may take until December 2012 to finish.

"Make sure all of you know who to contact with specific projects," Baltz said.

The main District 7 headquarters building at 32nd Street and Duquesne in Joplin will be sold, but the office will not close. Baltz said Joplin will become a regional office, operating out of the garage building, which MoDOT will maintain.

Dan Salisbury, the current assistant district engineer for District 7, will stay in that capacity. The Joplin office will continue to have a project manager and staff for permits and planning.

With a drastic reduction in the number of projects being designed due to reductions in state funding, Baltz said there will be less need for engineers, staff to buy right of way, planners, bill payers and staff to hire personnel. The biggest changes will come on the project delivery side of MoDOT's work.

Baltz expected the changes would be permanent. The introduction of technology had changed many aspects of MoDOT operations. Cameras on highways now show actual road conditions from across the state, and surveying work that used to take an entire crew can now be done with one or two people.

Concern was voiced about MoDOT continuing the level of service, particularly in snow removal. A city representative from Aurora said a notable reduction was seen in his city last winter.

Baltz said various roads have been identified as continuous treatment routes and should not see significant changes. She asked problems be brought to her attention.

"It won't be the same, but if you have a couple of areas, we'll work with you," Baltz said.

Monett City Commissioner Jerry Dierker and City Administrator Dennis Pyle attended the meeting. Pyle said MoDOT's reorganization represented "the best possible outcome" for Monett in that the staff people like Baltz who are familiar with Monett's issues will still be around, and that the Joplin office will continue to operate.

Baltz invited anyone with questions about the changes to contact the District 7 office or refer to information posted on the modot.org webpage.

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