The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Commissioner Daren Schuster reports on County Roads


January 22, 2020

Board of County Commissioners are Clay Riehl, Bob Pasha, and Daren Schuster. We should know what our County Commissioners do. I looked up the various Chouteau County Department. The commissioners are responsible for setting up budgets. For those who do not have elected officials, the commissioners do have oversight responsibilities. The various departments are Chouteau County Assessor & Appraisal, Chouteau County Attorney, Chouteau County Clerk & Recorder, Chouteau County Clerk of Court, Chouteau County Disaster & Emergency Services, Chouteau County Extension Service, Chouteau County Library, Chouteau County Mental Health Service, Chouteau County Sheriff/Coroner, Chouteau County Superintendent of School, Chouteau County Treasurer, Department of Child & Family Services,

Department of Public Health, Justice of the Peace Court, and Chouteau County Planning Office. I don't think even I know what each department does. In a series of articles, we will cover these departments. There are also several boards the commissioners are responsible for as well. We are looking at these as well. There are 100 volunteer board members in the county.

I sat down with Darin Schuster to visit about commissioner responsibilities. Before we started, I thanked him for the county, taking on one of the Brown Fields in Big Sandy. The Chouteau County Commissioners got a grant to remove the old gas station at the corner by The Motel. All the asbestos will be abated before the county tears it down. Then the all the gas leaked into the ground will also be cleaned up. It will be a nice cleaned up area when they are done.

The only Commissioner's responsibility we talk about in Big Sandy is county roads, so that is where this article will start there.

Daren Schuster was excited to tell me about the county road updates. "I would say quite honestly since I've been a commissioner I'm probably more excited right now then I have ever been. We can do something with the roads more than we've ever could before. In 2oo8, we started losing our oil and natural gas tax production monies from a high of $477,000 to our current $8,000, which we split between the three districts. It was tough going to our voters to get the special road levee past. Honestly, the roads could get worse without it. We didn't have any mechanism. It was depressing. People deserve more than that."

"We should have another 100 miles graveled done this summer. This summer, we did 24 miles. The delay this summer was due to electrical problems on the gravel crusher."

"Farmers and Ranchers want rain, but rain makes it difficult to build and re-gravel roads."

We have 800 miles of county roads in this district, 600 of which we try to take care of. It cost between $10,000-$12,000 per mile to gravel a county road. Now you need to hire an engineer to build a road. It is also required to get a permit from the Department Environment Quality for every single gravel pit. Those permits cost up to $15,000 for every single one.

Even If the landowner owns the land, he can only use 10,000 yards without a permit.

Gravel pits have been found on Bruce Peterson's, one towards Loma, Yirsa's, Larry Jappe's, and Robert William's has a pit as well. The gravel crusher is on the Gasvoda place. We'll be starting at Hopp, Five Corners, Sheep Coulee, the butte road, and Lone Tree. Eagleton, and Cow Island this summer.

This summer, 6-miles were done on Spring coulee with only one mile left, plus 2 ¼ miles on the Rudyard road. With no specific order, the road from Freddie Bit'z to Valley's will be worked on plus the Ensle Road to the seed plant, hopefully before spring due to the lack of culverts on that road currently. Blankenbaker and Gardin Road by Bearwagen's will be worked on too.

He hopes some landowners will be able to help jump in a truck and help haul some gravel this summer. This whole country was gravel by landowners in the past. They spend time removing beaver dams that are plugging up culverts.

Schuster believes we have a good crew if mother nature cooperates.

He did admit it's hard to keep the crusher contractor on task because he has to finish other jobs. But you could tell he was excited to give a positive report about his districts road improvement finally.


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