MoDOT to pay overtime to remove deer, debris from roads

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employees will be working overtime to help clear deer and other debris on highways.

Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, said he asked MoDOT to work out an agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) after a hearing on House Bills 404 and 501, which would address public concerns about deer carcasses and debris on highways in Missouri.

"I asked the highway department to give us a written letter, telling us how they were going to address the issue after the hearing, which they did," Veit said. "They were going to address not only the deer but all types of trash on the road.

"Maybe the original bill was needed because they were not addressing those issues, but once we brought it to their attention ... and they addressed it, that should have been the end of it."

The bills would require MoDOT to bury any and all large animal carcasses found on highways and shoulders 3 feet underground on MDC land. Under the bill, MDC would reimburse MoDOT for all removal, transport and burial expenses. Veit took issue with this, causing him to go to the departments directly.

"I don't think in the Legislature we should be micromanaging any department. For instance, telling them that they have to bury the deer, where to bury them and how deep they have to bury them," Veit said. "I don't think we have the constitutional authority to do that under present constitutional restraints."

In the joint letter to bill sponsors Kent Haden, R-Mexico, and Paula Brown, D-Maryland Heights, representatives for both MoDOT and MDC outlined the organizations' plans for addressing road cleanliness issues.

"MoDOT has developed a statewide action plan to alleviate these concerns," the letter said. "(MoDOT) Maintenance employees will dedicate specific hours to focus on picking up downed signs, litter, deer and large debris. This will include the infusion of overtime hours to extend the working hours dedicated to these activities.

"Every highway will be traveled regularly to monitor and manage these situations."

Linda Wilson Horn, the communications director for MoDOT, said overtime is not uncommon for highway department workers and is often allocated to clearing snow and preparing for winter weather this time of year.

"It hasn't been too bad so far this winter, but usually this time of year we're spending a lot of overtime fighting winter operations and then different times of year it's focused on other things," Horn said.

Horn said MoDOT prioritizes debris that is a safety hazard when sending workers along highways.

"Our first priority is to get a deer out of a lane, for safety," Horn said. "If they're on the shoulder but it's still on the pavement it's not considered an emergency, so we try to move them off into the grass. That is because of (MDC) concerns with chronic wasting disease, they don't like deer being moved around a lot so we move them into the grass and let them decompose over there."