• Martin, Hewkin say taxpayers can’t see road spending numbers until after November election
June 30, the midway point of the 2012 fiscal year budget for Crawford County came and went, and a road and bridge update was requested by Three Rivers Publishing from both District #1 Associate Commissioner Richard Martin and District #2 Associate Commissioner John Hewkin during the July 3 county commission meeting. For the past four consecutive meetings, however, neither commissioner has provided a list of completed or upcoming projects for the public and as of Tuesday, July 31, they are refusing to do so.
Hewkin and Martin announced Tuesday that because of the upcoming election, in which Martin is running for Crawford County sheriff, both had agreed not to disclose what they have been doing for the past six months, all of which is a matter of public record. When Steelville Star Staff Writer Becky Lakaner questioned that decision, the two commissioners lashed into her, claiming Three Rivers Publishing is out to make Martin look bad during an election year, despite the fact that the Steelville Star and Cuba Free Press have provided taxpayers with a road project update every summer for the past several years. The two commissioners continued to chastise Lakaner until she finally left the meeting in tears.
About an hour later, Presiding Commissioner Leo Sanders attempted to contact Lakaner at the Star to apologize for the actions of his fellow commissioners. The commissioners also took up a collection and instructed County Clerk Marty Leathers to send Lakaner flowers, which she received Tuesday afternoon with a card signed, “We’re with ya. Leo, Richard and John.”
Despite the fact that the commissioners are refusing to tell Three Rivers Publishing how they have been spending the taxpayers’ money this year, Lakaner was able to obtain quite a bit of information about the road district budgets from Leathers on Monday.
According to Martin’s Capital Improvement budget, as of July 30, only $3,887 has been spent on repairs and maintenance of the $20,000.04 allotted. This amount is labeled under “Bridge Repairs,” but Martin refused to say what bridge that money was spent repairing. Under the “Other Income and Expenses” category of his budget, a total of $296,794.35 of $646,446.96 has been spent on “Materials and Supplies,” $10,022.34 has been spent on “Equipment,” and $9,612.80 has been spent on “Rental Equipment.”
Of the $653,446.92 budgeted for Martin’s Capital Improvement fund, $316,429.49 has been spent. In Martin’s General Fund, $70,626.29 in fuel has been spent, with only $95,000.04 budgeted. Within the entire “Vehicle Expenses” section, in addition to fuel, expenses total $8,538.34 in “Repairs and Maintenance” and $17,580.07 in “Vehicle Maintenance and Supplies.” Martin has spent nothing for “Bridge Repairs,” “Bridge Maintenance,” or “Road Repairs.” However, he has spent $2,936.52 in “Road Maintenance,” $33,814.77 in “Tractor/Equipment Repairs,” and $9,008.82 in “Supplies.” A total of only $45,761.11 has been spent for repairs and maintenance where $125,000.04 was budgeted.
In the “Repairs and Maintenance” category, zero has been spent on “Bridge Repairs,” “Bridge Maintenance,” and “Road Repairs.” Only $323.04 has been spent on “Road Maintenance,” $14,918.03 on “Tractor/Equipment Repairs,” and $19,419.78 on “Supplies.” Of that category, a total of $34.660.85 has been spent of an $81,999.96 budget.
In Martin’s General Fund a total of $372,663.16 has been spent of a $709,247.88 budget.
In Hewkin’s Capital Improvement budget, of the $294,999.96 allotted under the “Other Income/Expenses” category, $6,911.40 was spent on “Equipment Purchases,” $177,087.80 was spent on “Materials and Supplies,” $8,399.20 was spent on “Equipment,” $10,022.82 was spent on “Rental Equipment,” and $26,146 was spent on “Road and Bridge Improvements – Other.”
Under the “Repairs and Maintenance” section of the Capital Improvement budget, $25,698.58 of the allotted $9,999.96 has been spent on “Road Repairs, “Tractor/Equipment Repairs,” and “Supplies,” putting Hewkin, at this point, well over budget in this area.
According to Hewkin’s General Fund budget, in the “Vehicle Expenses” section, $66,822.26 has been spent for “Fuel,” $8,728.95 for “Repairs and Maintenance,” and $2,404.30 for “Vehicle Maintenance Supplies.” A total of $90,000.00 is budgeted for this area.
Hewkin’s total General Fund budget for the fiscal year was set at $538,187.04, and $343,794.74 has been spent.
In both districts, thousands of dollars have been spent on asphalt from several asphalt companies without any notice of bids being advertised. According to Leathers, any expenditure totaling more than $6,000 must be put out for bid, but no bids are on record at the county clerk’s office. Leathers also said the county has paid numerous bills for rock and gravel this year, but again no bids were advertised and none are on file in his office.
At this time, it is unclear what roads, bridges, or other projects the taxpayers’ money is being spent on as both Martin and Hewkin refused to disclose that information during the July 31 Crawford County Commission meeting, saying that “timing is poor” for such questions, and they “didn’t want it in there before the election.” Both agreed to disclose this information after the upcoming election.
Rob Viehman, who is the owner and publisher of both the Steelville Star-Crawford Mirror and Cuba Free Press, said Tuesday that voters should not have to wait that long for a response from the commissioners and vowed to make sure they provide taxpayers with the requested information immediately.
“Later this week, we will be filing an official Sunshine Law request with the Crawford County Commission and county clerk’s office, demanding the information we have been seeking, including any and all bids taken by the road districts for asphalt, rock, gravel, and other supplies,” Viehman said. “Under state law, they will have 72 hours to provide us with that information. If they do not, we will file a grievance with the Missouri Ethics Commission and the Missouri Attorney General’s office.”
Editor’s Note: Staff Writer Becky Lakaner contributed material for this story.