County Commission talks more about abandoning the plat for Vichy Heights

“We’re having trouble seeing how the county has a dog in this.” Commissioner Doug Drewel

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 11/24/21

MARIES COUNTY — The Maries County Commission would like to stay out of any land disputes and do not want to be in any type of situation that requires them to build or develop roads in an area …

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County Commission talks more about abandoning the plat for Vichy Heights

“We’re having trouble seeing how the county has a dog in this.” Commissioner Doug Drewel

Posted

MARIES COUNTY — The Maries County Commission would like to stay out of any land disputes and do not want to be in any type of situation that requires them to build or develop roads in an area where they don’t want to.

At a county commission meeting last week, attorney Albert Crump Jr. came to the meeting to talk to them about the Vichy Heights lawsuit. Previously, an attorney for the heirs of the owner of the 43.49 acres of land located on the west side of Highway 63 in Vichy, came to the county commission asking them to vacate the plat on the property. The plat he showed the commissioners included various streets and blocks sectioned off in an era titled “Vichy Heights Subdivision” which had never been developed. The area is next to the Vichy Community Park. Some of the street names on the plat include King Avenue, Cedar Street, Elm Street and Oak Street. Maries County Road 539 is on the plat, running in a straight line at the edge of the top of six blocks plotted out on the plat. The attorney for the heirs of the property told the commissioners the streets only exist on the plat because they were never developed. 

At the meeting last week, Crump said a client in Vichy would like all of the streets to remain on the plat and asked the commissioners not to vacate them. Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said he can see one road near their property but doesn’t understand why they want all of the others to remain. “What difference does it make to sell with the streets platted?” He asked. 

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said for the county road district’s purposes, the only road he’s concerned about is MCR 444, which is across the street from land owned by the Prigge’s with the road running between their property and the old Cook’s Store. Road Two has not maintained this section of the road since Drewel has been commissioner and that’s 13 years. He does have concerns with someone later on developing the Vichy Heights property and asking the county to build a road with the access to it. “The county has nothing to do with it,” Drewel said. He said if the future owners want to develop the area with housing, they need to do it and pay for it, too. 

Crump said when the plat is vacated, it all is vacated. 

Drewel said after several years if a county road is not maintained by the county, it’s not on us. Crump asked him if anything has been spent on it. Stratman asked the reason the clients want the roads to remain on the Vichy plat, to make it more desirable? Drewel said Maries County does not have a road in there. “I’ve been here thirteen years and nothing has been done. We don’t want a road there,” he said.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said it sounds like opening up “a can of worms.” 

Stratman said in Vienna each city block has an ally, which the city does not maintain. The alleys only exist on the plat. Drewel said Vichy is not a city. “We’re having trouble seeing how the county has a dog in this,” Drewel told Crump.

Stratman said “Nothing exists there.” He asked if they want it to remain, is there a process that need to go through. 

Drewel reiterated, “lt has never been a county road. It’s not been maintained and we don’t want one there. We don’t want developers coming in here and saying ‘build us a road.’” He asked how the commissioners can “close something that never was.” 

Crump said the lawyer has a lawsuit for the county to abandon the plat. It doesn’t include 330 feet of the road Drewel is concerned about. Stratman said the commissioners don’t have enough information to make a decision on this. 

Drewel said if they want the county to leave the roads open so that can later develop it, and have the county put a road in there at the county’s expense so they can make money on it, the answer is no. 

Crump said he will look at it and in the meantime he asked the commissions not to do anything. 

Drewel added the county maintains MCR 539 which runs through the Vichy Park, but the road does not run straight as the plat map shows.

Electric vehicle chargers 

Courthouse IT Manager Shane Sweno brought information to the commissioners about installing an electric vehicle charger at the courthouse. Sweno said he sent out 22 requests for information and received three responses. Ameren responded as its current Charge Ahead program is already providing money in incentives to help businesses and public facilities make electric vehicle charging more widely available for drivers. Some $5 million of this incentive program remains but the program expires in 2022. Sweno said the county could get $5,000 per port to install a Level 2 charger. He told them there is some grant money available. With the Level 2 port, charging an electric vehicle for an hour would give an average of eight to 10 miles of travel. There are Level 3 chargers that in 10 minutes will charge a battery to 70 percent. Level 3 chargers are DC as opposed to AC and operate around 480 volts. They are much more expensive to put in.  The nearest Level 3 charger is in Jefferson City at the Marriott Hotel as well as two in Osage Beach.  

Treasurer Rhonda Slone said people want convenience. Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz asked if this is what the future will look like and she was told yes. Drewel said this will be a market for businesses to come and put in chargers. 

Stratman said he thinks electric cars are “a ways off.” Sweno said the first one was developed in 1990 and now 30 years later, the market is turning toward electric vehicles. Stratman said there will need to be a lot of charging stations if it takes that long to charge the batteries. Fagre said Ford is spending big money to build electric F-150 trucks. 

Drewel wondered if the county can get incentives to get electric vehicles. They were talking about needing new dump trucks and maybe they should wait and invest in electric ones. The county probably could save money on gasoline if they make electric tractor trailers. He thinks it’s still a ways off. Stratman said unless they get the whole thing paid for, they need to do more studying on it. Drewel said there is federal money out there.

Internet committee

Stratman is on the Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) internet committee. Elon Musk’s Starlink is working and a committee member from Callaway County is using Musk’s internet as a pilot program. The download speeds are okay but they need more. Fagre said Starlink recently launched more satellites.

HP Storm Pipe

Drew Andrade, Public Infrastructure Specialist with Advanced Drainage System, Inc. of St. Louis, visited with the commissioners about the culvert pipe manufacturer’s product, HP Storm Pipe. This is a gray culvert pipe, he described as “black pipe on steroids.” It has a fire retardant and can be used by the county road districts to supplement metal pipe. The product is strong, resilient and a tractor trailer can drive over an exposed end and the culvert pipe pops right back. 

Drewel said they don’t use a lot of plastic pipe because the ends curl up. Andrade said this new product will not do that. In Webster County this type of culvert pipe is being used at the road district site where they drive trucks on it daily. The company guarantees this pipe and if it melts the company will replace it free of charge. 

Drewel said they don’t keep a lot of culvert pipe around, preferring to buy it when they need it. Fagre said they’ve used metal culverts for the past several years. Andrade said he will ask  a company distributor to submit prices to the commissioners. Drewel said maybe at the beginning of the year he will be buying some pipe. 

Andrade said the cost of metal has increased in price, and at a rate of 70 percent more since last year. Right now they are cheaper than metal culverts but the problem is the lead times are lowered. He invited them to visit the company’s booth at the MAC conference that weekend. 

911 Center

Stratman said the new floor covering has been put the county’s 911 Center in the sheriff’s office. They also painted it and took out the counter, which makes the area seem much larger and with so much more room. Two high quality chairs, called 24/7 chairs, were purchased from Missouri Vocational Enterprise. Because someone constantly sits in these chairs every day/night, the sheriff’s office wanted a high quality chair. The cost of the chairs, which have no arms, is $727 each. 

While these renovations were being made the 911 Center was never down. 

File a claim

There was some discussion about whether or not to file a workers compensation claim on an emergency room bill for a Belle Division sheriff’s deputy who was injured while investigating a building that had been vandalized. The deputy cut her hand and needed stitches. The claim is for about $2,800. Fagre wondered if turning it in would affect the county’s MOD rating and end up costing more in the long run. After discussion and some expert advice, they decided to go ahead and submit the claim to workers comp insurance as the county has had so few claims this year.

An old plan

Wallstreet Group’s Brad Roark, a group benefits broker, was at the commission meeting Nov. 18 with numbers for renewing the county’s employee health insurance benefit. On the current, old policy, the renewal is up 3.9 percent. Roark said the increase at first was 6.9 percent and he negotiated with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and it came back at 3.9 percent. He was hoping for a zero increase in the premiums. The renewal rate of the old policy is $679.25 per person per month, up from last year’s rate of $653.88. The policy has a $7,500 deductible and out-of-pocket total for individual of $15,000.

He also showed them two potential plans, both which require a county membership in a chamber of commerce, which Vienna has one of. Missouri chambers of commerce have grouped together to make a large group and this brought savings to the participants. 

One of these plans had a rate of $606.23 per month per employee and has a $6,500 deductible, and $13,000 total out-of- pocket. The other one has a deductible of $2,900 and individual out of pocket of $4,500 for co-pays. There are no co-pays until the $2,900 is met, then the plan pays for 100 percent except for the $4,500 for co-pays. 

Roark said the employees at Wallstreet Group use the $2,900 deductible plan and it takes getting used to as they have to pay for everything until they hit that $2,900 mark. Stratman said this policy looks like the best one. 

Kottwitz said no county employee on the health insurance has dependents on it as well. Drewel said it’s because it’s too expensive and a person “would need a side job to pay for it.”

Kottwitz reported there are a total of 27 county employees on the county’s provided health insurance benefit and nine of them buy-up to improve their benefits. 

Roark said with an increase of only 3.9 percent, it tells him the county’s group is doing well. The county’s plan is an old one not offered anymore and once the county abandons this plan, it’s gone and there is no getting it back. 

Stratman liked the $2,900 deductible plan but Fagre said some employees need the co-pays all the way through and may not be able to afford having to pay all of the $2,900 deductible before the insurance begins to pay anything. Roark said this type of policy is becoming more popular. It lowers the health insurance company’s exposure. He said most people don’t meet their deductibles. 

Slone said she’s not sure about abandoning the county’s plan because there’s no going back. Roark said with the old plan the premiums keep going up. He said the chamber of commerce rate was a way to bring a large group of entities together under one roof. The renewal is Jan. 1, 2022. Kottwitz said she needs to know by Dec. 1, 2021 to prepare for the payroll adjustments. The commissioners have until then to decide.

Rate went down

The Wallstreet Group’s Jennifer Gerling, a commercial sales agent, who handles the county’s liability insurance, was at the county commission meeting. She was pleased to report the county’s annual premium rate went down. It went from $104,000 this year to $99,981 in 2022. 

The commissioners checked the lists of things the county owns to make sure they are correct. 

Assessor Dana Simmons came and reported on the new GIS system being installed in her office. It does not require a lot of extra equipment, just a computer and probably a TV screen but no new hardware. 

Gerling questioned the replacement cost of the courthouse, which was $203,000. This was increased to $500,000. The 911 Center equipment is estimated to cost $200,000 to replace. The commissioners will check into this and get a combined amount of what will be in the 911 Center. 

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