Commissioners address use of water cooling, heating machines in courthouse jails

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 10/15/20

VIENNA — At the Maries County Commission meeting last Thursday, the commissioners nixed a request for special water cooling and heating machines in both the men’s and women’s jails …

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Commissioners address use of water cooling, heating machines in courthouse jails


VIENNA — At the Maries County Commission meeting last Thursday, the commissioners nixed a request for special water cooling and heating machines in both the men’s and women’s jails in the courthouse.

Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz said a dispatcher had suggested this special piece of equipment because the jail has a commissary that sells items to prisoners that need water. A couple of the items sold are ramen noodles and coffee. These items need hot water and to do this they have to get the hot water out of the shower. It was suggested it would be best if the prisoners made their own soup and coffee using the hot water from these dispensers, which would be located in each jail .She was told the hot water from these cold and hot water dispensers is not hot enough to burn the prisoners. The cost is $200 per dispenser.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said he’s afraid the inmates would tear up the dispensers and they wouldn’t last long.

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said, “I don’t think they need it. They are in jail.”

Also, Kottwitz said the showerhead in the men’s jail in broken. A plumber suggested buying and installing a tamper-proof shower fixture to keep all of it protected. They’ve had problems in the past with showers being left running and damage done to anything in the jail. With the tamper-proof shower apparatus, when its turned on, it only runs for a certain amount of time then shuts off.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said in the past inmates have been breaking the shower heads and he thinks they would break the hot/cold water dispenser as well.

Stratman said the tamper-proof shower apparatus makes sense and would save the county money on water bills because there are times the jail’s residents leave the water running.

Secondary roads

Stratman planned to attend the Highway 63 meeting in Houston last Friday morning, but may have not been able to because of the death of his wife’s father, Lawrence Falter.

He’s attended in the past and the promoters of this group are pushing for a four-lane Highway 63 and don’t want to settle for anything less.

Drewel commented the state had “better get to work on the secondary roads” as they are getting in bad shape. “The gravel roads are better than they are,” he said.

The commissioners commented it cost so much money to do the simplest things as there are so many regulations.

PDMP Ordinance

The commissioners looked at the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) ordinance provided by Phelps-Maries Health Department Director Ashley Wann. She said if the commissioners are satisfied with it, they can sign it. Stratman said some places adopting an ordinance to be part of the program are having a public hearing before signing the ordinance. He thinks Maries County should do this at one of the commission’s regular meetings. It will be advertised for two weeks in this publication, inviting citizens to attend the meeting if they are interested, and copies of the proposed ordinance will be available at the county clerk’s office for those who want to peruse it.

Fagre said he would like for Sheriff Chris Heitman and a health department representative to be at the public hearing on Oct. 29 when they plan to sign the ordinance.

Windstream Holdings
free from bankruptcy

The commissioners received correspondence about Windstream Holdings now being free from the shackles of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Windstream is the communications company tapped to provide upgrades to rural broadband and internet infrastructure in this area of the state.

According to an internet source, Windstream has successfully shed more than $4 billion in debt and has about $2 billion in hand to fuel new growth as a privately held company.

Health Department report

Health Department Director Ashley Wann provided the commissioners with the weekly Covid-19 report. As of Oct. 6 Maries County had 117 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and of this number there were 21 active cases, with 96 persons released from isolation. There have been no deaths. In the different areas of the county active cases included seven in Belle, one in Dixon, six in Vienna, and six in Vichy (not sure where the 21st active case was).

Contracted audit

County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said she received an email from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office about an upcoming audit for Maries County.

The last county audit was in 2016. Maries County is scheduled to participate in a contracted audit for the fiscal year 2019-2020. A private CPA firm is contracted to do the audit.


Rodgers reported receiving a workers compensation insurance dividend from Missouri Employers Mutual (MEM) for $2,817.70. MEM provided workers compensation insurance for the county last year. This year the county switched back to a previous provider, Missouri Association of Counties (MAC). Rodgers said the county may receive a dividend from MAC for this year. The commissioners said it would be hard to split the dividend check among all of the funds workers comp covers, so they decided to put the money in general revenue.

Stratman said the annual MAC Conference is Nov. 23 and 24 and will be held virtually. Stratman registered for it, but said he’s not sure who is the voting member for Maries County. He noted MAC is the workers comp insurance provider and Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz said they would like to keep MAC for next year and already have said as much to the Wallstreet Group insurance representative about it.

State Bicentennial

There was a new flag flying at the courthouse and a new sign in the hallway. Rodgers said Senator Mike Bernskoetter brought them as part of the county’s participation in the Missouri Bicentennial 2021commemoration, celebrating 200 years of Missouri history.

MRPC dues

The commissioners received the annual membership renewal from Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). Annual dues for Maries County are $3,508.70. This includes 18 service hours. The county’s dues are based on the county population of 6,813, which is 51.5 cents per person.

Stratman said MRPC’s Executive Director Bonnie Prigge will be at the county commission meeting Oct. 15 with the county’s TAC members, Ray Schwartze and Steve Vogt, to discuss the county’s transportation priorities. 

Building and Grounds

Stratman reported the floor cleaning and waxing is finished except for the stairway landings and the area by the handicap door. The main hallway looks good. The soda machine was moved to do the floor maintenance and will be brought back after the wax has time to dry because the soda machine is so heavy.

The new treads on the stairways are finished and look good. Stratman asked if they should paint the risers because they are “skinned up” and they agreed this should be done. The custodian can do it when he has time.

Plumbing and sewer problems continue in the basement. Stratman said the lower level of the courthouse is too low for the city sewer. When the basement was remodeled in 1993, a deep hole well, four to five feet deep, was put in with a sump pump, basically a small lift station. It may need to be replaced. A used one was located in the basement but when it was plugged in, there was no sound and only a small vibration. Stratman said he thinks a new one won’t be too expensive.

Sneeze guards were put in several county offices where workers deal with the public. The commissioners looked at a bill from Miller Glass for $279 for a sneeze guard and $36 in labor for it to be put up.


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