Commissioners approve three CARES Act requests, reject request for police vehicle

Posted 10/29/20

VIENNA — During its meetings last week, the Maries County Commission approved three CARES Act money requests, but turned down one request for a vehicle.

All four requests had been …

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Commissioners approve three CARES Act requests, reject request for police vehicle

Posted

VIENNA — During its meetings last week, the Maries County Commission approved three CARES Act money requests, but turned down one request for a vehicle.

All four requests had been pre-approved by MRPC and the commissioners approved requests from both the Maries R-1 and Maries R-2 school districts and the Vichy Volunteer Fire Department. However, the commissioners did not approve a request from the Vienna Police Department for a city patrol vehicle. The Vienna PD request said the officers are essential infrastructure employees who are required to respond to calls even through mandated quarantines. There are three officers who spend on-call time from home, which requires the officer to have a police car at their residence. At the current time the officers often are sharing one patrol car which they attempt to keep disinfected between users, but if one officer must quarantine for Covid-19 symptoms, which recently happened, that officer has to take calls from home, which required a dependable patrol car to be available to them. This has created a need for Vienna PD to purchase a police patrol vehicle to make officers available and still allow for social distancing by discontinuing the sharing of a police vehicle. The request was for the vehicle and its support equipment totaling $44,075.

The commissioners said they don’t want to use the county’s CARES Act money to pay for vehicles and denied the request. Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said, “We can’t start handing out cars. Where are you going to stop?”

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman agreed. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said all of the entities will be requesting trucks. This is the first request the commissioners did not approve, although MRPC pre-approved it.

The Maries R-1 School District submitted a reimbursement request for $34,091 for 100 Chromebooks ($27,100), which are laptops, plus storage, charging carts and other accessories. Including this most recent request, Maries R-1 has or will receive $93,349 in county CARES Act money.

The Maries R-2 School District requested $59,024 for large fans and installation of them. It was noted there is about $2,000 in sales tax on the R-2 request. Tax supported entities don’t have to pay sales tax and the commissioners asked this to be taken care of by the school. This is the R-2 school district’s third request for reimbursement of non-budgeted and unexpected expenses caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus. The school has or will receive $3,111.63 and $22,299 from the CARES Act money.

The third request was from the Vichy Volunteer Fire Department for $132,500. The request is a big one and it is for gear for firefighter protection. It included 12 complete sets of NFIP compliant turnout gear, which includes 12 coats, pants, helmets, Nomex hoods, fire gloves and boots estimated at $2,333.33 each for a total of $28,000. An extractor 22 NFIP compliant washing unit for fire PPE is $5,000. A wall-mounted gear rack to properly dry/store the gear is $3,500. The largest part of the request at $96,000 was for 12 CBRN certified SCBAs with two cylinders, masks, quick connect, etc at an estimated $8,000 each.

The commissioners approved this request, in part, because they had approved an over $200,000 request for Vienna Fire for the same types of protective gear. Firefighter protective equipment is expensive. The talked about how quickly the money has been spent. About $260,000 of the $1,020,000 the county received in CARES Act money is left.

Drewel said he likes to see the schools receiving the money because that impacts the most people. They talked about how there are other fire departments in the county. Fagre said they know what the deal is and can turn in their requests.

Stratman said they need to hold back about $30,000 to pay for the audit. Also, MRPC charged $1,300 for the work it did for Maries County in September, so they probably need to hold back about $5,000 to pay for their work until the end of the year. The commissioners said when this all began they probably should have put a maximum amount such as $50,000 they way they did with business requests, which they capped at $5,000. At the end of the year, if there is any money left, Stratman suggested giving it to the health department because Phelps County has given away all of its money and can’t help the health department any more. They discussed the possibility of getting another round of CARES Act money as the pandemic seems to be getting worse. If the county does get more money, they may put a ceiling on the amount of the requests.

Left turn lanes

Stratman said he received some additional information about the prospective Highway 63 left turn lanes at the Quaker Window Products plant in Maries County. This was part of the discussion when the TAC met with the commissioners last week.

Stratman said there are three entrances onto Highway 63 from the large Quaker plant and the left lane turns will be going north for almost a mile. The price tag he was told is about $882,000 and that was in 2018. The price probably will be more now. Quaker and MoDOT may partner and split the cost of the project if the company decides to move forward with it. Stratman said he supposes the employees are sitting in a line waiting to make a left turn when they could be working. Fagre said he’s been in Vienna waiting for five minutes or more at an intersection to Highway 63 and the vehicles from the Quaker plant come one after another so he understands the problem they might be having.

Also about Highway 63, Stratman said the Highway 63 Coalition had information about the taxable sales for the past five years in the seven counties along the Highway 63 corridor. Stratman said Maries County was the lowest among the counties in the amount of taxable sales at $474,533.62, but had the biggest average yearly increase at 4.66 percent. Osage County had taxable sales for the past five years of $1,102,465.53 and was second only to Maries County in the average yearly increase at 4.29 percent.

Stratman said there is a transportation tax district in Rolla along portions of the Highway 63 business district and in the newly expanded retail area also. The tax rate in the transportation tax district is 8.6 percent.

Dropbox

A new dropbox will be purchased for $763.95. This will be useful during the upcoming tax season. People are more and more unwilling to go into public buildings because of fear of contracting the Covid-19 coronavirus. With the dropbox they can use it to put their tax payments in it and avoid coming into the courthouse.

The commissioners discussed where to put it outside the building. They talked about putting it outside the handicap door on the south side of the courthouse. Drewel said people would not find it there. He thinks it needs to be on front. They decided to put it near the sidewalk at the front entrance, anchoring it to the concrete.

Virus outbreak

The commissioners talked about the rising Covid-19 numbers in Maries County. Stratman said as of Oct. 21 there had been 187 known people infected with the virus reported by the health department, which was an increase of 13 from the day before. There were 56 active cases, up 16 from the day before. Some 42 of those cases were in the Vienna area. And, 142 had been released from isolation. There were three hospitalizations in Maries County and one person needed a ventilator. Three were released from the hospital. There have been no deaths from the virus thus far.

The commissioners said it seems to be everywhere including the schools. Fagre said he saw a bus that morning that only had about six kids on it. Some students are reported to have the virus and many are in quarantine because they were in contact with someone who had the virus.

Health insurance

Brad Roark of the Wallstreet Group met with the commissioners via telephone. He said he’s working from home because there was a possible virus case in their Jefferson City office and now there is a travel ban until they get it sorted out.

He spoke about the renewal rate for the health insurance for county employees. The rate per month per employee increased by 4.5 percent from $625.86 to $653.88. While it is a rate increase, Roark said it’s not too bad, but every year it goes up. The plan is the same as the county is using this year, which has a $7,500 deductible and maximum individual out of pocket of $15,000.

Roark said they can use the Missouri Chamber of Commerce plans through Anthem if they join the local chamber of commerce. These plans have a lower deductible because the small groups join together to be part of a larger group. There also is a $5 per month charge for the chamber plans, an administrative fee. The renewal also would be for June 1, 2022 so the rates would be locked in for a longer time period. Roark said they are moving a lot of companies into these chamber program plans as it spreads the claims among a larger group and it is easier if the county has a bad year.

One of the plans he showed the commissioners is one with a $3,500 individual deductible with no co-pays until after the deductible is met. The premium is $620.36 a month per employee. In this plan, anything the individual paid will go toward the deductible. Roark said it’s a different product but is similar to what his company does to keep health insurance rates lower.

The county can offer three different plans to its employees.

He asked for the commissioners to have a decision by Nov. 15, which helps them have time to get signed up and get cards to the employees who use the health insurance benefit.

Buildings and grounds

Custodian Shawn Eaton said a citizen doing business in the courthouse had an infant with him and could not find anywhere to change the infant’s diaper. He suggested they get one for the men’s room.

Also, because of restrictions in the license office for others not allowed behind the counter, there is a refrigerator there that no longer can be used to put courthouse employee lunches in. They decided to purchase a small refrigerator to put in the break room.

Eaton has accepted another employment position. He starts there next week but said he can come in and work from 6 to 8 a.m. or 6 to 9 a.m. on all the days next week except for Monday. Stratman asked him to do this until they can hire his replacement.

IT Coordinator Shane Sweno said he is applying for a 911 grant and needs a joint resolution between the county and the city of Rolla. He has eight days until the grant is due. Fagre asked him to get a template for the resolution and of from there.

The commissioners and Sweno went outside and discussed the best way to put the security cameras on the courthouse. They talked about putting them on the roof, but then determined the best place in on windows.

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