MARIES COUNTY — Last Thursday the Maries County Commission had a public hearing, which was a meeting with two attorneys and one visiting citizen, about vacating a portion of roadways, streets, …
MARIES COUNTY — Last Thursday the Maries County Commission had a public hearing, which was a meeting with two attorneys and one visiting citizen, about vacating a portion of roadways, streets, alleys and easements in Maries County in the unincorporated town of Vichy and the subdivision plat for Vichy Heights Subdivision. After the meeting, the commissioners said they will take the matter under advisement as they wait for more information from their attorney as they consider what was asked of them.
At the county commission meeting Monday, Jan. 10, the commissioners each said they felt “they just about had to do” it and Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman signed to vacate certain areas of the plat map.
At the meeting last week the county commission was represented by Attorney Albert Crump Jr. The property in question is 43 acres along Highway 63 in Vichy, owned by the heirs of Vernon and Marie Mayer. Salem Attorney Steven Patterson represents the heirs and this was his second time to meet with the commissioners.
This time Patterson brought a different, more legible map. He said there are conflicting deeds on the property. What they are asking is for the county commission to vacate on the plat what the heirs own, which is indicated in pink on the plat map.
Commissioner Stratman said the commissioners don’t want to build streets if a buyer purchases the land to develop it. The county does not own the property or streets there. Patterson said if they vacate West Street on the plat map, it potentially could eliminate easement to the property.
Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel asked how the county commission “can vacate what we don’t own?” Patterson said there is a 1942 plat map and one created in the 1880s. The heirs are asking the county to undo the plat map. The people own the land, but they need county authority to vacate the plat map. Drewel said he doesn’t understand how the county can vacate something it does not have.
“We don’t want you to build roads on that property,” Patterson said. “You have to right to build roads now. You don’t own it and we aren’t taking it away from you.” He said Vichy, at this time, is an unincorporated city, which is the reason he has come to the county to vacate the plat map. The land in question is in Maries County. If Vichy was an incorporated town, he would be asking the Vichy City Council instead of Maries County. He further stated the heirs own both sides of all of what they are asking the county to vacate. Patterson said he heard one use for the area was as an artillery range used when the airport at Vichy was a U.S. military installation during WWII. This property also is the site of the Vichy Spring, which was purported to have healing mineral water in the 1880s and is what the town is named after.
Drewel asked Crump his opinion. Crump said if the county vacates the streets it will have no more obligation to build a street, if it ever did. Stratman asked if the county is obligated when someone buys it? Crump asked if the county has “done any work there.” Drewel said there isn’t a road there, its a woods. Crump said anybody can plot a subdivision. The county has not exercised any authority there.
Patterson said the work he has done is to publish the notice of public hearing in the newspaper and in a quiet title suit has notified all of the landowners.
Drewel asked if the un-maintained county road goes to the landowners as he thought state statutes indicate this. Patterson said he is using a different statute. The one Drewel is speaking of is for when a road already has been built. “There were never any roads built. We want to vacate the plat. No roads exist,” Patterson said.
Crump advised the commissioners the county has no control of any of these roads nor does the county have an obligation to do anything. He said the heirs are asking the county to vacate a certain part of the plat. “Just because there is a road on a plat, you have to accept it first before it can be a county road.” He said they can file something saying they don’t want that road.
One of the landowners whose property adjoins the heirs’ property in question, who was present at the meeting, Bonnie Prigge, said she is comfortable with what the Mayers have proposed and there is adequate landowner access.
Drewel said his concern is that even though the county has not maintained a road there, in the future it could be forced to maintain it. Crump said the county would have to accept it as a road before that would happen. “Maries County has no interest in the property and still doesn’t,” Drewel said. The land there is rough and really grown up. Crump said he does not see the county bringing any liability to itself by doing what the heirs have asked them to do, but maybe there are some concerns with West Street.
Patterson said the county has easements. If the commissioners say no, the heirs will have to appeal the matter to circuit court.
After the attorneys left the meeting, Drewel checked with the assessor’s office and reported taxes for the roads and alleys on the plat map are not being paid by anyone.
Stratman asked County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers how much railroad tax the county receives annually. He said this will be lost because of the Rock Island Trail being converted to a state park hiking trail by Missouri DNR, which will eliminate any taxes needing to be paid on it. He thinks this was effective in Dec. 2021. Rodgers checked and the annual taxes paid by the railroad is $835.09.
The first day after the New Years holiday that courthouse workers returned to work in 2022, it was reported the jail was flooding with water coming up in the floor drain. Plumber Jon Wegman was contacted and he came and shared with the commissioners what he knows about it. As a plumber, Wegman told them he has been to the county’s downstairs jail “numerous times.” He used a camera and said the problem is a low spot, a big one. It’s four-inch pipe and it is three-quarters full. It’s a really long sewer pipe, about 200 ft long, with 20 ft of bad pipe. This pipe handles all of the sewer in the building as it all ties through the same line.
Stratman said it sounds like it needs to be dug up. Drewel said or it needs to be raised. Wegman thinks the bad part is probably about six to seven feet deep. He suspects its underneath the flag pole area. The concrete is settling and compacting the dirt.
“We don’t have any option other than to realign it,” Stratman said as the problems continue nearly every week. “We have to do it” and he thinks it will pay back pretty quick once it’s fixed and they don’t need a plumber every week.
Wegman said he’d been at the courthouse twice that week. The shower in the basement jail was left on all weekend by the inmates. He suggested getting a jail shower, which is a push bottom apparatus with a timer for how long the water can run. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre told him one time in the upstairs jail, a woman plugged the sink, turned on the water and went to bed. The entire courthouse was flooded because of it, with water making its way all the way down to the basement.
Wegman said he will get an estimate, saying they probably will need a clean-out place outside. Drewel said they will need to close the front door of the courthouse and not allow access while the digging is being done.
On Thursday, Rodgers reported the jail in the basement had flooded again on Tuesday and the prisoners helped get the water out. Wegman again was called. Stratman said this didn’t happen in the 20 years since the line was put in and he wondered why it is doing it now.
In the upstairs jail, heat was not getting to the jail and was realized on the cold days. Stratman said he and custodian Dave Juergens took a look at it and a valve had been turned off. Stratman said he suspects this was done when Soloman was there in the summer working on the boiler. This was an easy fix as they turned the valve on and the heat came on.
IT Manager Shane Sweno was at the meeting briefly. Stratman said the Vienna License Office camera is not recording because it is full and he asked him to remove some of the old footage. Both Prosecuting Attorney Tony Skouby and Sheriff Chris Heitman agreed keeping 90 days of the footage is adequate. Sweno said he’s been busy working on 911 but will take care of dumping the old footage and maybe writing a program for it to do it automatically.
A big box was in the commission room Thursday morning. It contained a Saeptre 50-inch flat screen television. Sweno bought it at Walmart for $381.30 with a five-year warranty. The commissioners have been talking about getting a TV to use with GIS, video conferencing and webinars. Sweno said he saw this deal. The price was about to go up so he bought it. It can be taken back. The commissioners want to keep it so he will install it in the commission room.
Stratman asked him to take care of his more important work first.
The commissioners signed paperwork from MoDOT for payment of $217,000 in engineering and construction work on the BRO bridge on MCR #608. The project to replace the bridge will cost over $400,000 and the work is being done now.
Fagre said the engineer called him about it and he told him the paperwork had been sent to MoDOT on Monday so the reimbursement should be ready to be made by next week.
Stratman reported on a bid received from Rehagen Heating & Cooling, Westphalia, for a new air handler for the jury room, located right behind the upstairs courtroom. The price quoted was $5,967. He said it won’t use the boiler and it both heats and cools. But, because it does not use the boiler, it will use more electricity. Rehagen also will give the county a bid on a unit that uses the boiler, but he expects that bid to be higher.
The budget work will begin in earnest the following week. Rodgers said she has nearly all the numbers entered.
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