Progress in the District
From January through the middle of May, I travel each week to the State Capitol in Jefferson City for the legislative session. Committee hearings and floor votes are just part of my responsibilities as a state senator. However, a part of the job I absolutely love is to work directly with the nearly 180,000 constituents that make up the eight counties within the 33rd Senatorial District. During session, I have limited opportunity to travel and visit with folks, which made last weekend a joy, as I celebrated new developments in our area.
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to accompany U.S. Rep. Jason Smith as he toured parts of his congressional district, which includes most of the counties I serve in the Missouri Senate. Joining me in welcoming the congressman were State Reps. David Evans of West Plains and Travis Smith of Dora. Our first stop was West Plains, where the congressman announced a $2.5 million federal grant to fund a new railroad overpass on Highway 160. The project will improve safety and allow continued growth for Leonardo-DRS Land Systems (DRS), a major employer in the region. This project has been over 10 years in the making. In addition to a community development block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, other funding for the project comes from MoDOT, the Delta Regional Authority, BSNF Railway, the City of West Plains and DRS. From West Plains, we traveled to Ava to tour the newly constructed Douglas County jail. The 56-inmate, 17,000-square-foot facility opened last spring, funded through the passage of a half-cent sales tax. Thanks to Sheriff Chris Degase for hosting us and showing us the new facility.
The railroad overpass project in West Plains is just one example of how local communities benefit from federal community development block grants. Doniphan was recently awarded three separate grants to fund improvements. An $118,000 grant will fund a bank stabilization project along Quick Creek, while a $129,000 grant will fund replacement of a pedestrian bridge over the creek. The community also received a nearly $900,000 grant to pay for road widening, gutter, culvert and drainage improvements along Doniphan Park Road.
In other local news, I want to congratulate the Ozark County Substance Abuse Task Force Committee on achieving their non-profit status under the IRS. The task force has been hard at work for the past three years to qualify for the 501(c)(3) designation. Made up of representatives from across the community, the committee is dedicated to finding solutions for their friends and neighbors who are dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.
It was my pleasure to welcome a number of visitors to the Capitol this week. Among those who stopped by my office were Ripley County Presiding Commissioner Jesse Roy and the West Plains Lady Zizzers basketball team, who captured second-place in Class 5 this year, going 28-4. Ava Mayor Burrely Loftin and Board of Aldermen President Stan Lovan also visited, as well as Janessa Foster, a senior at Houston R-1 High School.
The Capitol grounds are beautiful in the springtime, and the exterior of the building is gleaming, thanks to a recent renovation. The interior architecture and artwork of our Statehouse are simply stunning to see, and the ever-changing exhibits in the museums are always fascinating. Visitors are also welcome to watch the Legislature in action when we’re in session. If you have the opportunity to visit your State Capitol, I encourage you to do so. Legislative activities continue through May 14.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011. You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.