MARIES COUNTY— Most of the business the Maries County Commission dealt with in their two meetings last week was the nearly final decisions and distribution of the county’s CARES Act …
MARIES COUNTY— Most of the business the Maries County Commission dealt with in their two meetings last week was the nearly final decisions and distribution of the county’s CARES Act money. The $1,020,000 is almost gone now.
Last Monday the commissioners considered two requests from the Dixon Rural Fire Protection District. One request was for $28,079.50 for 10 sets of turnout gear for the firemen that included jackets, pants, helmets, boots, and gloves. The second request was for $65,882.72 for 10 hand air packs at a cost of $4,506 apiece, air cylinders at $938 each, and 10 face pieces at $205 apiece.
Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said he wants Maries County’s CARES Act money to be spent in Maries County. Part of the Dixon Rural Fire Protection District is in Maries County and he contacted Tim Simmons about it who said the turnout equipment they are requesting for the firemen will be used for fire fighting activities in Brinktown and Hayden, both in Maries County.
The commissioners had requests from three other entities and noted they have the money, but are getting close to the end of it. The Phelps-Maries County Health Department requested CARES Act reimbursement of $10,117.27 for October 2020, which was mostly for labor. Stratman said that means they have two more months of requests from the health department. Maries and Phelps counties share the health department expenses with Phelps County shouldering the lion’s share at 84 percent and Maries County picking up 16 percent.
County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers asked what will happen when the CARES Act money is gone and the health department has ongoing coronavirus expenses. Will the county pay the health department out of its regular budget? Stratman said in Washington DC they are talking about more CARES Act money coming, but they may not, too. “I think we have to fund the health department,” he said.
The City of Vienna requested $586.76 for sanitizing, decontaminating, masks, gloves, and evidence bags. This was approved.
There was a reimbursement request from Capital Region Medical Center (CRMC) for the county’s share of the testing done on persons from Maries County at the hospital’s mobile testing station. CRMC requested $7,765. The commissioners said this was news to them as they did not know the county was supposed to pay for testing. Stratman called CRMC and left a message for a call back. Rodgers said they only have until the end of December to spend the money. Stratman said if they approve all the requests on the table that day, it would leave $17,852 in remaining CARES Act money, and that doesn’t include the $13,500 the county needs to pay for the single audit. That would cut the balance to about $4,000.
Both Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre and Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel thought at this point at the end of the money, they won’t be able to approve both of the requests from Dixon Rural Fire. Fagre said the county will need the money for the health department, saying Dixon Fire should have got the money request turned in sooner as the county is down to the end of it now. Stratman said the turnout gear for firemen is very expensive. Drewel noted that lungs are more important than feet. The commissioners approved the larger request from Dixon Rural Fire for the breathing apparatus units totaling $65,882.72 but rejected the $28,079.50 request for turnout gear because the money is almost gone and there are other requests for it.
The request from CRMC was about 200 pages long. When people went to the hospital’s mobile testing station in Jefferson City, they were asked their address and 83 people from Maries County used the testing site from March through September. The $7,765 is Maries County’s share of the costs of the testing station. He said the county may get bills later for this. But, the county probably will run out of CARES Act money and can’t pay later if there is no further CARES Act or stimulus money in the future. Drewel questioned who would pay then. Fagre said they have the money now and should pay it as it’s a reasonable expense. Drewel asked what if the county didn’t have the money. Stratman said it would be like when people go to the hospital and have no health insurance.
Maries R-2 School District requested reimbursement of $1,886.67 for public health cleaning. The R-2 school district hired an additional custodian to clean and sanitize the Belle campus. The commissioners said it needed to be paid.
At Thursday’s meeting, Stratman said he’d put some figures together about what entities received the CARES Act money and how much. The list is not quite complete, but very close. The Maries County Assessor’s office received $173,929 for GIS to assist employees who won’t have to visit residences while doing field work. The Maries-Osage Ambulance District (MOAD) received $31,696 for equipment and sanitizing machine. The Vienna Fire Protection District received $199,675 for turnout gear and breathing apparatus for the firemen. Your Community Health Center received $4,820. Maries R-2 School District has received $83,043 and has made an additional request of $1,886.67. Maries County has received $11,410 for cleaning, sanitizing, masks and other supplies, and has another request coming. The Belle Fire Protection District received $23,935. The Bland Fire Protection District received $14,945. The Maries R-1 School District received $124,154. Dixon Ambulance District received $32,196. Dixon Rural Fire Protection District received $65,882. The City of Vienna received $6,174. Capital Region Medical Center received $7,765, and the Phelps-Maries County Health Department received $48,296.
These numbers are as of Dec. 2 and the requests that came in on Monday are not included here. It was noted the City of Belle didn’t request anything. Stratman said nearly all of the CARES Act requests went to public entities and only one county business made a request and that was Fick Distributing for the maximum business request of $5,000.
Stratman took a call from an individual who was concerned there is no COVID-19 testing sites in Maries County as to get one they need to drive to Jefferson City, which is a round trip of about 70 miles. Rodgers said it is not the county’s place to do it. Treasurer Rhoda Slone said the health department is “stretched thin” with contact tracing. Stratman told the caller a test can be taken at Sinks Pharmacy for $75.
MRPC did good work
Stratman said MRPC’s Executive Director Bonnie Prigge emailed him saying November’s bill from the regional planning commission for its work overseeing the county’s CARES Act money is in the mail. The December bill is estimated at $1,500, and the work it will do for the county with this money during 2021 is estimated at $3,000. The commissioners want to hold back money to pay MRPC and to pay for the single audit of the money.
“I don’t know what we would have done without MRPC,” Stratman said. Those at the meeting all agreed Maries County was fortunate to have them sort through its applications. “It’s a full time job,” Stratman said.
Highway 63 Alliance
Stratman said when they are doing budget work for the county’s 2021 budgets, he asked his fellow commissioners to consider budgeting $2,000 to give to the Highway 63 Alliance. The alliance needs start-up money for its plan to work toward making Highway 63 through the seven counties in the south-central region a four-lane highway. It’s going to take matching money to attract and establish financial partnerships with MoDOT and the federal transportation system. The group of movers and shakers in this alliance propose a transportation taxing district (TTD). Each of the seven counties in the Highway 63 corridor of this alliance is asked to pass a sales tax to help fund the effort.
Stratman said they will be asking the cities along Highway 63 for $1,000. They need the money for postage, advertising, getting incorporated, and other start-up costs. At this time they are asking each county to run a one-cent sales tax for the Highway 63 improvements.
“We’ll have trouble with that,” Fagre said.
Drewel agreed it will not be easy because of the virus and so many people being out of work.
Stratman said maybe a half-cent is the best they can expect. Drewel said he can go along with the $2,000 and Stratman said yes, he can, too.
But, Drewel said its all those people out of work that concern him. “All these cities, counties asking for money,” he said.
Stratman said a TTD was successful on Highway 36 and 60. It’s the way to get it done.
“This is a different day in time,” Drewel said. “It’s a waste of money to advertise as the people won’t pass a tax because it’s a bad time for it.”
Stratman said they have to “look down the road” and it depends on how people think about four lanes.
Drewel said, “People are hurting financially. They worry about feeding their kids, making their house payment, and not that highway.”
Stratman said the people in the alliance are all for it. Drewel restated there are many people out of work and everybody wants more money. He thinks the gasoline tax is the way to go, but voters have rejected all recent attempts to pass a statewide increase and the state legislature is not interested either.
New Jobs Center
Stratman said he was at the grand opening of the new Missouri Jobs Center location in Rolla. It’s on Kingshighway across from Fairground Chevrolet. It’s a nice building that has eight work stations for people to work on resumes, a place where prospective employers can talk to a job counselor, and they can hosts job fairs there. He thought it is a nice facility.
The previous location the organization had to vacate about a year ago, plus the Jefferson City facility was destroyed by tornado when the tornado went through the city. There are now facilities in Rolla, Jefferson City, Columbia, and Lebanon, plus satellite offices at Fort Wood, Camdenton, and Fulton. Stratman said businesses looking to hire workers can make contact at the job center for potential employees.
The Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District (ORSWMD) held a Zoom meeting Tuesday. Stratman said people who want to get rid of holiday lights and prefer to recycle them can drop them off at Lowes. The lights contain mercury and the district would like to keep them out of the landfill. There is no charge to leave them at Lowes.
Three major recycle collection events were held in 2020 and 29 tons of trash were recycled. Maries County is set to have a recycle event in probably October 2021, but at this time they are not sure of the location; Road One is too far and Road Two doesn’t want to take tires.
The ORSWMD award program has been rescheduled to June 2021.
Stratman reported the Missouri Housing Development Corporation has CARES Act money to pay back rent to landlords for tenets who could not pay their rent because they were impacted by COVID-19. The landlords can get up to six months of rent.
Volkswagen Trust money
Stratman said the Volkswagen Trust is pushing electric diesel charge stations and will provide money. He thinks restaurants are ideal places to put charge stations because people can charge their electric vehicles while having a bite to eat. Slone said the Kansas City area has charge stations. Drewel said it would be an idea for bigger hotels to put in charge stations as it would be a draw for people to stay there if they could charge their cars, too.
Fagre said a group Bill Gates is involved with has developed a new battery that in 15 minutes is 80 percent charged.
The commissioners spoke briefly to IT Coordinator Shane Sweno. A Vienna Office employee pushed the panic button recently and nothing happened. Sweno worked on that and other IT issues. There are 19 panic buttons in the courthouse. He says he has about 25 projects he’s working on.