October 31, 2014

Twenty counties declared disaster areas

Twenty north Missouri counties hit by big storms September 9th and 10th have bee declared federal major disaster areas. The declaration will help counties recover from high straight-line winds and more than nine inches of rain that led to closing of seventy roads including Interstate 29 and Highway 36.

The declaration will allow counties to get federal aid for repairs to roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure.

Twenty north Missouri counties hit by big storms September 9th and 10th have bee declared federal major disaster areas. The declaration will help counties recover from high straight-line winds and more than nine inches of rain that led to closing of seventy roads including Interstate 29 and Highway 36.

The declaration will allow counties to get federal aid for repairs to roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure.

Counties covered by the declaration are (in alphabetical order): Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Daviess, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Mercer, Nodaway, Putnam, Ralls, Shelby, Sullivan, and Worth.

 

Drafting begins on state energy plan (AUDIO)

A series of public meetings that could shape the state’s long-term energy plan has wrapped up with a lot of talk about alternatives. The fifty-member state steering committee that has been assembled to recommend a comprehensive plan for the state’s energy future has held seven meetings and now starts putting together a report that’s to go to the Governor by next May 21.

Wind FarmEnergy Division Director Lewis Mills says many of those at meeting with the committee want to see greater emphasis on renewables and alternate sources of energy. He says trends are running in their direction, but coal will remain the dominant fuel for energy generation for a long time.  “I think we will increase quite a bit in the mid-term. But starting with 80 percent of our energy generated from coal, it will take quite some time to make any substantial inroads in that,” he says.

He says prices are dropping dramatically for solar and wind. But he says a lot of money and resources are invested in coal generation, and that means quickly switching to wind or solar power would be cost-prohibitive.

But Mills does think there will be a shift to other technologies over time.

AUDIO: Mills interview 1:13

 

 

Missouri DOT looking for potentially deadly guardrails (AUDIO)

The state Transportation Department has started looking at all of its guardrails to see if the ends have a manufacturing flaw that can turn them into spears.

A section of Guardrail (file)

A section of Guardrail (file)

The department says it has seen enough incidents in Missouri and in other states to make it suspend buying guardrail end caps from one of its suppliers. MODOT’s Engineering Policy Administrator Joe Jones says the department has developed a database with GPS locations of tens of thousands of guardrail ends in the state.  Department workers started checking those locations this week.

Jones says most guardrails are for motorists who would rather hit them than something else on the road. “The end of the guard rail itself has to be treated.  If we didn’t treat that and you ran into it with your car,  it would have a very good chance of spearing right through the car,” he says.

The ends are supposed to absorb impact and the rail is supposed to bend and spread.  But some lawsuits say guardrail ends made by a Texas company has a design flaw that doesn’t let the rail absorb the impact. At least one fatality has been attributed to that design.

Jones says the first step in dealing with the issue is to check every guardrail end in the state and identify the ones from Trinity Industries, a company the department has used for almost twenty years. Jones says the problem segments appear to have been made in 2005.

AUDIO: Jones interview 8:28

US Supreme Court stays execution of Missouri inmate Christeson (AUDIO)

The United States Supreme Court has blocked the execution of condemned triple-killer Mark Christeson less than three hours before he was to die.

Mark Christeson (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Mark Christeson (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Christeson and prison officials got the word shortly before 10 o’clock last night that the court had accepted one of the two appeals before it.   Justice Samuel Alito had previously rejected a challenge to the drug protocol used in executions.  Similar appeals have gone nowhere in the past.

Critics of the way Christeson’s attorneys have handled the case say the attorneys missed a deadline for seeking federal review by almost four months and did not even meet with Christeson for the first time until one month after the deadline.

The appeals do not dispute his conviction for murdering a Vichy-area woman, her son and her daughter, and throwing their bodies into a central Missouri farm pond in 1998. They focus on the failure of his attorneys to file for federal review of the convictions and sentences. The challenge, filed by three St. Louis University law professors and supported by a number of former state and federal appeals court judges say the continued presence of the two attorneys as representatives of Christeson is a conflict of interest.

Some recent executions in Missouri were delayed for a matter of hours by a court stay but were carried out before the execution warrant from the state Supreme Court expired.  Corrections Department spokesman Mike O’Connell says that won’t be the case this time.

“This is not something that was going to be cleared up in the next 24 hours, and so we would break down for the night,” O’Connell tells Missourinet.  “Everybody go home, and we’ll wait.  This is something that will have to be taken up in court.”

Once the execution warrant is allowed to expire at midnight tonight, the state Supreme Court would have to issue a new one for Christeson’s execution to be carried out.  The Court normally allows inmates and their lawyers thirty days to make final appeals after such a warrant is issued before the execution is carried out.

The U. S. court appears divided on the issue. Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia favored refusing to consider whether Christeson’s lawyers, as critics put it, “blew the case.”  The court has not said when it will further take up the matter.

Missouri’s next scheduled execution is that of Leonard Taylor, set for November 19, for the 1994 murder of a man working at a gas station that he robbed.

AUDIO: O’Connell interview 2:53

 

Study: Missouri government discriminates (AUDIO)

A lengthy study concludes discrimination on the basis of race or gender continues in state government’s choice of companies getting contracts with the state.

A supplemental budget bill passed out of the State House on Thursday would spend $50 million on the Missouri State Capital, and put money toward renovation of the Department of Transportation Building (foreground).  (Photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri State Capitol (Photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

The study has looked at fourteen different kinds of contracts the state issues for everything from groceries to building construction. Ten percent of the contracts are supposed to go to minority-owned business enterprises and five percent are to go to women-owned businesses, either as the prime contractors or as subcontractors.

View the study here

The head of the state Office of Administration, Doug Nelson, says the study shows some jobs are too big for smaller companies, often owned by minorities or women, to bid on.

“We’re going to be looking at how we offer the contract, ” he says. “There are too many contracts that are bundled together. Can they be broken apart?”

The state also is going to look at bonding requirements, which many small businesses have trouble meeting. The study says the state also needs to set aside some contracts just for small businesses, work with other agencies on mentoring programs, and develop some new performance standards to measure progress. It also suggests the state work to eliminate a perception by other firms and government agencies that women-and-minority-owned businesses are not competent to do the work.

Nelson hopes a special oversight committee will recommend changes in about six months.

AUDIO: interview 12:05