Commissioners served with lawsuit, plaintiff wants Fish Hollow Access road deemed private

County needs to pass flood plain ordinance for flood insurance buyers

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 3/23/22

VIENNA — While the Maries County Commissioners were waiting for the clock to strike 9 a.m. to begin their meeting last Thursday, a gentlemen from Jefferson City came into the commission room …

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Commissioners served with lawsuit, plaintiff wants Fish Hollow Access road deemed private

County needs to pass flood plain ordinance for flood insurance buyers

Posted

VIENNA — While the Maries County Commissioners were waiting for the clock to strike 9 a.m. to begin their meeting last Thursday, a gentlemen from Jefferson City came into the commission room and served them with legal papers. 

The lawsuit named Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel, Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman, and Western District Ed Fagre in their capacity as Commissioners of Maries County. The lawsuit was from plaintiffs Eugene E. Appel and Jacqueline M. Appel as Trustees of the Eugene and Jacqueline Appel Revocable Living Trust. The issue is Maries County Road 306 and the Fish Hollow Access to the Gasconade River. 

The Apples live in St. Louis and are represented by the law firm of Bandre, Hunt and Snider, LLC. They are asking the Circuit Court of Maries County, in Judge John Beger’s court, to determine the public versus private nature of the estate located and situated in Maries County. 

The papers served to the commissioners stated the property abuts in part the Gasconade River known locally as Fish Hollow Access, which is an access to the Gasconade River at mile marker 191.6. The filing stated MCR 306 connects to MCR 308, which attaches to Missouri Route M. The filing said the MCR extends 550 ft. into the property past a cattle guard. There is a gravel roadway having an approximate length of .37 to 3.9 miles connecting MCR 306 where it ends about 550 feet past the cattle guard to the Gasconade River and Fish Hollow Access. 

The filing stated the sources of the controversy is the nature of the road and the access as being public, and thus available for use by the citizens of Maries County and others, or private, and thus such that petitioners may limit and prohibit access by the public. The Appels maintain the road and Fish Hollow Access are privately owned. The respondents, the Maries County Commission, have expressed the road and Fish Hollow Access as well are public and further that the petitioners have no legal ability to prohibit access and usage to members of the public. The petitioners are asking the court to determine the ownership of the road and Fish Hollow Access. 

The Appels purchased the property in 1978 from Martha M. Morgan. The filing stated beginning June 1, 1923, the road and Fish Hollow Access were subject to the terms of a lease or real estate between the then-owners of the property, Edward Picker and Mamie Picker, and the Fish Hollow Fishing and Hunting Club.  The terms of the lease granted the club and their guests “free ingress and egress to the leased premises” for a period of 99 years, beginning Sept. 15, 1922. The terms of this lease expired Sept. 15, 2021 and the lease was not renewed. 

The petitioners are asking the court to declare the road to be private and giving the petitioners the ability to block or close public access to the road and asking the court to declare Fish Hollow Access to be private in its ownership, and to block or limit  access to the river access.

Commissioner Drewel, as director of Maries County Road Two, which maintains the county road to the river access, said the road district has continued to grade and maintain the road, “because it is a county road.” As far as the commissioners know, Maries County has always maintained this road, all the way to the access.

Stratman said he noticed some exhibits mentioned in the filing are missing. He took his filing upstairs for Prosecuting Attorney Anthony “Tony” Skouby to look over. 

Later on, Skouby came to the commission meeting. He asked the commissioners to gather records for the county’s case. He asked for records of maintenance to MCR 306, talking to older, possibly retired road workers who remember working on the road’s maintenance. He also asked for names of people who use the Fish Hollow Access to the Gasconade River and how long they have used it. Skouby asked these persons please contact the county commission. 

“The commissioners are against closing county roads,” he said. He needs statements from road workers and the public so he can put together affidavits about it being a public road. Drewel said he will get started on this. 

Flood Plain

Stratman attended the flood plain meeting at the courthouse on March 15 with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). Working with SEMA and MRPC, Maries County needs a flood study. 

Maries County has 417 miles of streams. SEMA is about to track every three feet by three feet grid. If it rains five inches, that’s have they predict floods. There were 100-year floods in 2015 and in 2019, and a 500-year flood in 2017. At the meeting it was told there is a one percent chance of having a 100-year flood. The focus was on the 100-year flood because it is more realistic and they go by probability. 

There is better information now with GIS mapping and satellite use. There are places that were in the flood plain that now are not. 

Drewel commented that Pat Feeler used to paint the water level on trees to mark it. 

Stratman said Maries County has no zoning. If a house is built in the flood plain and the owners want to sell it, nobody will buy it. FEMA does not want anyone building a home in the flood plain. Toward that effort, Maries County is asked to pass an ordinance preventing people from building in the flood plain and MRPC will help the county through the process, which will take about two years. 

Stratman said FEMA will check to ensure a new structure is not in the flood plain. The information they have now is more accurate. He explained that if a person has a place along the Gasconade River and there is a flood and the water gets up to the steps of the place, the owners would not build any lower than the level the water reached at that time. People who own the land know where that water level is. But as time passes things are forgotten or not known to new owners.  

It is imperative Maries County pass the flood plain ordinance because residents will not be able to obtain flood insurance if this is not approved by voters. He said it will take two years to get it done and MRPC will help the county through it. FEMA is requiring this.

“Nobody wants a home flooded out,” Stratman said. “It doesn’t make any sense to build in the flood plain.” He added the county wants MRPC to continue to be the administrator of the county’s flood plain, the same as it is now. 

Fagre said banks want this, too, and Stratman said also insurance companies. This effort will require several public hearings. 

Fundraiser 

Stratman reported the recent BBQ fundraiser co-sponsored by the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department and the Visitation Knights of Columbus profited $6,900 for the fire protection district. The money was raised to help pay for the repairs to the district’s ladder truck. The community came out in force to support the firemen and their efforts. 

Sales tax 

Treasurer Rhonda Slone reported on March sales tax revenue. The county has three half-cent sales taxes, which brought in March revenue of $26,282.67 each. In March 2021, the same sales tax brought in $30,528.50 each, and was up in January, February and March in 2021 over the 2022 monthly totals. To compare, the first quarter of 2021, one sales tax had revenue of 78,932.04 and in 2022, the first quarter revenue for one sales tax was $72,933.50. Slone said this in an eight percent decrease from the previous year. 

Use tax, however, was up nine percent in 2022 over 2021 as online shopping continues to increase. Use tax revenue for the first quarter of 2022 was $44,838.59, compared to $40,976.25 for the same period of time in 2021. 

The county’s law enforcement sale tax for the first quarter of 2022 was down about $2,000 from 2021 totals at $26,169.52. 

Drewel said it’s probably because of not having federal stimulus money now. Families with children received money each month and that stopped so now they don’t have as much money to spend. 

Stratman said costs are higher now. It costs farmers about $800 to keep a cow for a year, which includes rent pasture to run cows. 

Pesticide Collection 

It was reported there will be a pesticide collection event on Saturday, April 9 from 8 a.m. to noon at MFA Ag Services in Washington. Stratman encouraged people to take advantage of this avenue to dispose of pesticides, saying throwing it in the trash is the worse thing they can do. 

MRPC offers a household and farm hazardous waste drop off by appointment in Rolla and St. Robert. 

For pharmaceuticals, there is a dropbox inside the east door of the courthouse. Put the RX pills in the box and the sheriff’s office takes care of it. This is better than flushing down a toilet as that can end up in the water supply. 

Brainstorming

Stratman said the Maries County Extension Council would like to assist people who are looking for a job and who might need some assistance with it. The group is brainstorming about this and would like to work in connection with Missouri Job Center. The group talked about getting Maries County people help with filling out resumes as a place to start. This could be done at the extension office in the courthouse. He said there are businesses looking for help and it would be good to help prepare people for the workforce. They may not be able to get to the Missouri Job Center in Rolla, but could get to the courthouse in Vienna. 

Fentanyl

Kevin Douglas, special assistant to Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri’s 3rd District, was at a recent commission meeting. Stratman asked when the congressman runs again and was told the August 2022 Primary Election and then the General Election in November. 

Something the congressman is working on is the opioid addiction problem, which has resulted in many deaths. He said the number of opioid deaths during the pandemic was huge. Drewel asked if fentanyl is a big problem and Douglas said fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Just two milligrams of it can be lethal. Much of it is coming across the country’s southern border from other countries. 

Drewel said young kids hanging around with the wrong crowd can be pulled into the prescription drug scene. They try it and then they are hooked. 

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