MARIES COUNTY — Requests continue to come in from the public entities in Maries County requesting reimbursement for expenses they have incurred because of the COVID-19 coronavirus …
MARIES COUNTY — Requests continue to come in from the public entities in Maries County requesting reimbursement for expenses they have incurred because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
At last week’s Maries County Commission meetings, the commissioners received two requests from the City of Vienna, which they approved.
Vienna requested CARES Act funding for computers. Two of them are for the police department, one for the city’s utilities department, and one for the city clerk working at city hall. The funding request totaled $5,484.99. The commissioners said MRPC had pre-approved the request, and they were okay with it as well. Vienna also asked for reimbursement of $102.60 for a mask station and this was approved, too.
The county initially received $1,020,000 in CARES Act money to be distributed and has about $217,000 of it remaining. The deadline to submit an application to MRPC for reimbursement from this fund is Dec. 11. Money that remains in the fund at the end of the year has to be returned to the federal government.
Maries County Associate Judge Kerry Rowden stepped into the meeting and informed the commissioners of his plan to request a couple of computers for his office.
There was some push back from some county employees following the commissioners asking everyone in the courthouse and all those who come to do business in the courthouse to wear masks.
Some of the offices have new plexiglass sneeze guard shields between the workers and the public and asked to not have to wear a mask if behind the glass. Its hard to understand what people are saying.
Business in the courthouse has been brisk as citizens come to pay taxes and do business with the Vienna License Office. It was reported that on Wednesday both hallways were full of people. It was drivers testing day. Also, Fagre said the license office in Waynesville was closed until Nov. 30 because of the increasing number of people with Covid-19. This may have played a role in the large number of people at the courthouse last Wednesday.
It was reported only eight people came into the building not wearing masks as requested; the rest were wearing masks.
Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre asked those at the meeting if they had heard about the high school party at Matt’s Steakhouse in Rolla that was a Covid-19 virus spreading event. Almost everyone knew about it because it went viral on the internet and was seen by people living in other states.
Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman had correspondence from 25th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge William Hickle. Judge Hickle said Phelps and Pulaski counties are in phase one (the most restrictive), Texas County is in phase two, and Maries County is in phase three, the least restrictive. Stratman said he was surprised about this because there have been so many positive Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Maries County, as well as some unfortunate deaths.
Missouri is among the 16 US states that still does not have a mandated order to wear masks. Missouri Governor Mike Parson has been encouraged to enact such a mandate by hospitals and health organizations in the state but continues to say no, leaving it up to local governments and individuals, even as virus cases, and deaths, continue to rise daily. The states without the mask mandates include Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Even though Missouri does not have a statewide mask requirement, several municipalities in the state do have the mask mandates.
Fagre said he hopes when the vaccine for Covid-19 is available that, “It works really good for old people.”
Stratman said he was copied on an email sent by MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge to local entrepreneur Chris Brundick. Brundick and Roger Schulte are investing in the community by establishing a new business from the ground floor up. They plan to have Farmer’s Meat Market ready for business in the beginning of 2021. The new business is located in the former WOW Pizza building on Highway V near Vienna, which is owned by Schulte.
Prigge informed Brundick the business is in the Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) and is eligible for tax abatements if it meets specific requirements and applies for the abatements.
Stratman said the enterprise zone puts all of the businesses and industries on the same level. The Farmer’s Meat Market is one of the types of businesses that qualifies for the tax abatements. There are requirements to be met in order to receive the abatements. These include creating two new jobs, making an investment of at least $100,000, and providing health insurance to the employees with the company paying at least half of the premium. The new company can gain at least a 50 percent abatement of taxes for 10 years or the life of the zone.
Stratman said the abatements are capped at 80 percent for 20 years. He thinks Quaker Window Products received this type of abatement as they hired over 100 new employees when they expanded their operations into an additional new plant in Maries County near the Osage County line.
In the email, Stratman said the average Maries County salary is $32,984, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
The EEZ was formed by a Dec. 17, 2009 resolution by the Maries County Commission and following a public hearing about it on Jan. 21, 2019.
Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said he thinks the tax abatements are “kind of high.” Stratman said it’s an old argument. He thinks its better to receive 50 percent of something rather than zero percent of nothing. The enterprise zone levels the field for business and industries to all play by the same rules. Stratman commented the health insurance may be a stickler for some small businesses as they might not be able to afford it. He further commented he didn’t think Maries County’s average salary would be that high at $32,984.
He said he assumes that Hippos was offered the same tax abatement opportunity. Hippos currently has under construction and is working toward opening a medical marijuana manufacturing facility in the former Vienna industrial development park.Hippos and Farmer’s Meat Market are located next to each other as the meat market is just outside of the industrial development park.
Stratman said other new businesses starting in Maries County will have the same opportunities with the benefits of the enterprise zone.
As the commissioners were looking over and signing their approval on bills, they questioned a sheriff’s office bill for pre-paid phone cards. Clerk Deputy Renee Kottwitz explained they are for the sheriff’s commissary as inmates can purchase $10 pre-paid phone cards. Stratman wondered where the inmates get the money to buy them and someone commented “from momma.”
The commissary also sells E-cigarettes and food and the money goes into a sheriff’s discretionary fund.
Drewel said the sheriff’s office probably makes a little money on it because “there are so many people in and out of there,” meaning the jail.
Kottwitz reported Darrell Decker reached out to the county about the new health insurance consortium he is working with. They are changing to United Health Care as the carrier and he’s sure the consortium will accept Maries County into the group, and maybe save the county some money. The initial quote appears to save about $60 per month per employee in premium, which for the county could add up to about $30,000 annually. Still the commissioners have some questions they need answered and want to speak to Decker about this. The coverage appears to be about the same as county employees have now, but with a smaller deductible. They also want to know of the plan pays 80/20 or 100 percent after the deductible.
Decker is a former Greene County, MO county commissioner. In the past Maries County was invited to join the consortium that brings together other counties in the state to form a large group, which is more desirable to insurance companies. However, the premium rates the county received were always higher that what they paid by buying employee health insurance through the Wallstreet Group in Jefferson City.
There was a brief discussion about the placement of campaign signs at polling sites at the Nov. 3 election. Signs have to be at least 25 feet from the polling site door. Drewel said he doesn’t know why candidates put up signs at the polling sites as most people know how they are going to vote by the time they get to the door.
Stratman said he’s glad the county commission decided to have a public hearing on the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). The commissioners voted down (2 to 1) the program the following week saying the state legislature needs to approve this and not push it down to individual counties.
Stratman said the public hearing allowed voices from both sides of the issue to be heard.
Buildings and Grounds
Stratman checked on the status of the county’s elevator inspection with Schindler. He said the county is supposed to have on-site documentation about the inspection. The next inspection will be in February. The county has inspection certification in a file cabinet in the county clerk’s office and that should be enough, but it may need to be located in the elevator or the mechanical room. County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said when the company reps come they don’t give her anything.
A new air handler and dehumidifier may be needed for the jails as there is too much humidity in the winter and spring in the jails, both upstairs and downstairs. The walls sweat. It should tie into the HVAC system. They are asking an HVAC man to come and take a look at it. Drewel said he thinks it needs a bigger outfit as the current one is too small. Stratman said they need to do it pretty quick.