Rumors of the closing of the District 9 offices of the Missouri Department of Transportation is sending a shockwave through Willow Springs, which has been home to the agency since the 1920s.
Many Texas County workers travel to the headquarters daily.
According to multiple people, the headquarters would be consolidated with a Poplar Bluff office.
MoDOT will not comment, and the subject is slated for discussion by the Missouri Highway Commission on May 4.
The news comes as MoDOT – facing a revenue shortfall – is looking for ways to cut costs.
District 9, with a total of 3,744 road mile covering 9,880 miles in south-central Missouri, is the largest geographically in the MoDOT system. Also rumored to be targeted are offices at Macon and Joplin.
On its website, MoDOT is seeking comments that would reduce its workforce by about 400 employees and save $203 million during the next five years by cutting costs and eliminating 400 salaried positions without layoffs by June 30, 2013.
Wendell Bailey, a former state representative, state treasurer and congressman, was quoted in the West Plains Daily Quill saying “we’re ‘urping’ in the streets” about the news that the headquarters may close. There are 422 employees in District 9.
Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission Community Manager Sally Oxenhandler said no firm decision has been made. “We are facing a severe funding shortage and looking at becoming a smaller agency due to the shortage. Beginning in 2017, we won’t have enough funds to match the federal funds,” she said.
Decisions are set for the May 4 meeting, but she would not elaborate.
Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, and Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said they have not been informed about the matter.
Jay Waggoner, Willow Springs mayor, said a closed commission was held Monday, and that the city has made a Sunshine Law request to gain knowledge on the gathering.
Waggoner said the process has been secretive. “Their official statement to me was that that they are looking at eliminating some people and some facilities. This will affect a number of people and communities, including Mountain View, West Plains, Houston, Summersville, all those areas.”