VIENNA — As the year 2020 nears its end, so does the CARES Act money the federal government gave Maries County to spend. At last Thursday’s Maries County Commission meeting the …
VIENNA — As the year 2020 nears its end, so does the CARES Act money the federal government gave Maries County to spend. At last Thursday’s Maries County Commission meeting the commissioners approved some of the last requests, which left a balance of about $15,000 in that account that at the beginning of the program totaled $1,020,000. It has helped many entities in the county deal with financial hardships placed on them by the coronavirus.
Some of the last requests for reimbursement of the CARES Act money are a $13,201 request by Maries County to cover expenses of supplies for sanitizing, masks and other expenses incurred in the courthouse and by offices within the courthouse.
Maries-Osage Ambulance District (MOAD) had another request of $1,735.60 which was approved by the commissioners. The reimbursement is for expenses incurred for disposable masks, gowns, and no contact forehead infrared thermometers.
Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said an extension agreement has been made with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC).
MRPC has been very helpful to the county in administrating the CARES Act money to ensure its use is allowable under the specified rules of the act. The money has to be spent by Dec. 30 or sent back to the federal government. But, MRPC will have administrative expenses on the county’s behalf into 2021 as the close out on the CARES Act money is not until Sept. 21, 2021. Stratman said the agreement or contract between Maries County and MRPC prepays the anticipated expenses MRPC will have for the county, which is $3,000. The county also will contract its payment of the single audit, which is $13,500. He said the money is already taken out for these expenses and is marked as contracted.
After approving the MOAD request, the county’s CARES Act balance was $27,921.82. Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said they should pay the requests “as long as we have the money,” but to make sure there’s money left for the Phelps-Maries Health Department and the audit.
Stratman contacted Kelly Sink at MRPC saying unless they have something at MRPC “sitting on the table that’s really important, we’re going to cut this off to have money to pay for the audit and expenses we have left.” Sink said there is another request from the health department that’s in the mail to the county. Also, she said the health department is working on a bill for the county for December.
And, that request did come in the mail that very day. The health department requested November expense reimbursement of $12,397.11, which leaves a county balance of $15,524.71. Stratman said they anticipate the health department’s request for December will be a similar amount.
“That just about takes care of everything,” he said. He thanked Sink for her work and all the trouble and wished her a Merry Christmas.
Fagre said he thinks there may be more stimulus or CARES Act money coming from the federal government. Stratman agreed.
Big increase in use tax
Treasurer Rhonda Slone reported on the county’s November sales tax and use tax revenues. Both were good news, but Slone said the “use tax went crazy.”
It had some big numbers in several months of 2020, such as $30,523.64 in March and $62,142.10 in June. After receiving November’s revenues the year-to-date total is $175,421.77, which is a 49 percent increase over the same period of time in 2019 when the total was $89,651.13. The use tax is charged on internet purchases and this is what they think caused the big increase as people wanted to stay out of brick and mortar stores and shopped online instead.
The sales tax revenues are up seven percent on the year with one of the county’s three half-cent sales taxes generating $30,627.79 during November. This compares to November 2019 when one sales tax generated $21,964.93. During 2020 there were some big months for sales tax revenues as well, such as September when sales tax revenues for the county from one sales tax was $38,529.07. Thus far in 2020, one of Maries County’s half-cent sales taxes has generated revenue totaling $289,985.94. This compares to the same period of time in 2019 when one of the sales taxes generated $269,752.70.
The sheriff’s law enforcement sales tax also is up seven percent on the year as the first 11 months brought in revenue of $96,047.47, compared to 2019 when that number was $89,076.51. It was Sheriff Chris Heitman who predicted an increase in local shopping and thus sales tax revenue when the COVID-19 crisis first hit. People have remained closer to home, shopping at local grocery stores rather than traveling to other towns to shop in larger stores.
Stratman reported Central Electric Power Coop plans to rebuild an electric line from Chamois to Dixon through Osage and Maries Counties. It will come through Vienna and will stay on its current transmission right-of-way. It will be a rebuild of the above ground line to a 161 KB line. They are asking the county commission to sign-off on it. The public can review and comment at the coop site at 2106 Jefferson St. in Jefferson City.
Route N bridge
At a recent MRPC transportation advisory committee (TAC) meeting, Stratman said MoDOT Meramec Area District Engineer Preston Kramer said about the work to the Route N bridge over Rodgers Creek, that the bridge abutments will be rebuilt and the girders and deck will be replaced. The road is closed at the site.
The county commission received correspondence from the Missouri State Medical Association encouraging the commission to do a county-wide mask mandate. The commissioners did not address this.
It was reported the BRO funding will be calculated differently. It used to be calculated on deficient ratings on bridges and now it will be done on poor rated bridges and square footage. It puts emphasis on repairing the poor rated bridges. Stratman said he’s now sure what difference it will make.
Stratman had information from the Missouri Department of Conservation about the state’s feral hog efforts. The department removed about 11,000 hogs this year using trapping events. At each trapping event about 9.9 hogs were removed.
At this time there are no feral hogs in Maries County, but they have been seen in Phelps County and in areas west of Maries County. Stratman said it was reported that in the western part of the state the feral hogs have almost been eliminated.
When they are trapped the hogs are butchered and the meat is used in the same way as the deer meat is handled in the Share the Harvest program.
He said they claim people are releasing the hogs. In the early 2000s, when the price of hogs went to nothing, people just turned out their hogs as they didn’t want to feed them. The feral hog problem is the result.
Stratman reported on information sent to County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers by MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge. The information came from Senator Roy Blunt’s office. Missouri is getting money to pay for broadband upgrades throughout the state and Prigge shared the amounts and bidders in the Meramec Region.
Maries County broadband providers are reported to receive a total of $4,139,606. There are two bidders interested in Maries County, Aptitude Internet LLC $2,212,994, and LTD Broadband LC $1,926.612. This includes making upgrades at 2,626 locations and Stratman said he assumes the locations are residences.
Other county funding awards in the Meramec region include Crawford County $633,831, Dent County $7,481,878, Gasconade County $6,083,427, Osage County $3,925,628, Phelps County $8,893,520, Pulaski County $4,928,782, and Washington County $3,903,793.
Stratman said he sees this broadband expansion as similar to electric cars; there are a lot of smart people working on it and they have to be cautious because the person who gets there first leaves the others with nothing. He called a person who works for an electric coop who said they are always pushing for better internet access. The project may be repeaters placed on poles instead of hard wiring.
Stratman said internet access is a very big deal now with the Covid-19 crisis. People need internet to work from home, schools were out, and students and others were home under quarantine. He said if a letter of support is needed the county commission can do this. He was told Aptitude has reached out to the coop, which will do all it can to help. Its in everyone’s best interest to seek improvements to internet access in this area.
Maries County’s trash/recycle program grant has been extended and now will run through to Dec. 31, 2021. Major Scott John is in charge of the program and will make sure the quarterly reports are done. The grant extension was necessary because the coronavirus pandemic kept the program from happening in 2020. Major John proposed a plastic recycling program at the public schools in Belle and Vienna. Containers were to be made available for students to bring the plastic to a container at the school and it would be recycled. But, with schools out and the problems caused by Covid-19, the program did not get off the ground. They will try again in 2021.
There was correspondence from 25th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge William Hickle. Judge Hickle reported circuit attorney Mike Anderson has passed away. Anderson was known for doing pro bono work for persons who are indigent.
Buildings and Grounds
Custodian Dave Juergens is going to get the pool paint for the front porch and steps and will measure the area to get the correct amount of paint.
The commissioners said Juergens got the paint but it is light blue and they prefer it to be gray, similar to the color it is now. He’s going to return the blue and exchange it for gray.
They also discussed the crack in the place where the planters are on each side of the front steps. Water will get into the crack and make it worse. They want to caulk it and repair it. It may need to be ground out and silicon used to seal the crack. Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said the last time the exterior of the courthouse was done, they did a lot of repairs to the surface of the building and it looks good. With an old building a good roof and keeping the cracks sealed is essential, he said. Stratman agreed, saying with an old building, “You have to stay on top of it.”
It was reported Daniel Stroud helped Juergens put up the Christmas lights outside the courthouse.
Sheriff Heitman told the commissioners he has worked out the jail blood draw process and procedure with MOAD.
Stratman reported Ameren sent a letter saying the company will be doing maintenance tree trimming in the right-of-way in 2021.
Stratman had a question about three radios purchased by the sheriff’s office and called Major John who said one is in a patrol car and two others are for deputies who need them. When a deputy leaves, the sheriff’s office gets all the equipment back.