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As an assistant road superintendent for the Cole County Public Works Department, Kevin Light lays out the work crews need to do and talks with residents who have concerns they feel need to be addressed.

"I've had good people to work around over the years to teach how to do things right," Light said. "I started in maintenance, then operating the equipment, and then I did inspections of projects for 15 years before I got in this position last year."

In the summer, Light oversees the asphalt and concrete crews. They do repairs on curbs and driveways that they find as they are out and about.

"We can have some big jobs in the summer and if we have to replace piping, too, that has to be done before we get to the asphalt and concrete work," Light said.

In the winter, Light makes sure material and other needs are taken care before the ice and snow hit.

"We have about 4,500 tons of salt right now in our salt dome, so it's stuffed full," Light said. "We also have calcium chloride available for when we go below freezing and need that something extra to help get the ice and snow off the road."

If a storm would last one or two days, Light said, they could go through 400-700 tons of salt. For the last several years, Light has been loading the trucks before they go out. But if there is a problem, like an accident involving a plow truck, Light has to go out and get information for a formal report. He also has to go out and talk with residents who might have complaints about how their road was cleared.

"Usually the majority of complaints come after the first storm because people aren't used to it," Light said. "If we have a long period, like last February where it was real cold, we can get people saying, 'You all aren't cleaning the road like you used to.' Well, when it gets way below freezing like it did then, it's harder to keep the roads clean and the material doesn't work as fast as we'd like it to."

Light and fellow road superintendent Aaron Lock split the number of road crew members they oversee (there's 35 in all). Compared to the Missouri Department of Transportation, which has been publicly asking for more qualified drivers to apply for numerous open positions they have, the county hasn't had that problem.

"We did recently lose one driver, but we have another coming in at the beginning of December," Light said. "He's got previous experience working in the snow so that will help, but we have another who graduated from high school last spring, so we'll have to have someone be with him for a little while until he gets used to some of the nuances."

Light has worked at the department for 31 years and can't remember times like this.

"There have been a couple of years where we were a little lean, but we had most of our guys staying with the department for a while," Light said. "Now, it seems like we have a little more turnover."

The potential lack of MoDOT drivers could potentially affect the county's operations, Light said.

"I know sometimes it takes them longer to get to the lettered routes and sometimes we'll kick snow off those routes just to get the routes that we know we have to plow," Light said. "Our priority is to get our asphalt roads in good shape first, because we have most of our subdivisions located on those roads, and then we hit the gravel roads."

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