County-wide mask mandate currently ‘not on the table’ for Maries County

Dixon Ambulance, Bland Fire CARES Act funding approved

Posted 12/10/20

VIENNA — At this time the Maries County Commission is not considering a mask mandate ordinance for the entire county, even though they did begin a mask mandate for persons working and coming …

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County-wide mask mandate currently ‘not on the table’ for Maries County

Dixon Ambulance, Bland Fire CARES Act funding approved

Posted

VIENNA — At this time the Maries County Commission is not considering a mask mandate ordinance for the entire county, even though they did begin a mask mandate for persons working and coming into the courthouse in Vienna.

The courthouse mask mandate began Nov. 30. At the county commission meeting last Monday, Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said at this point a county-wide mask mandate ordinance is “not on the table for us.”

Local citizen Ron Calzone came into the public meeting to speak to the commissioners. He thanked them for having the public hearing on the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) and said he was glad the commissioners decided not to join that program. Calzone and Rep. Tom Hurst both spoke against the PDMP during the public hearing. Two drug enforcement officers and a representative of Your Community Health Center all spoke in favor of it. Ultimately, the Maries County Commission had a 2-1 split vote on the issue and decided to step away from the PDMP program. The commissioners said they would prefer for the state legislature to take action on this state-wide problem. The local PDMP monitoring program would have allowed pharmacists and health care professionals to see if opioid and prescription drug abusers were doctor shopping for pills. The plan is to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the county. At last Monday’s meeting, Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said he’d had his eyes opened at the public hearing, adding there is more to the PDMP that appears on the surface.

Calzone mentioned that Rolla and Phelps County both have approved mask mandates and wondered if the commissioners were talking about doing the same thing in Maries County.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said if Maries County passes a mask mandate and Pulaski County doesn’t, it won’t help much. He thinks the state and the governor need to do it, not individual county commissions. Calzone said Missouri Governor Mike Parson is not going to do it.

Drewel explained at the courthouse there is a supply of masks available and it is up to the people who come into the building whether or not to wear a mask. He said those who don’t want to wear a mask should be okay when other people walk away from them and keep their distance.

Calzone said it is a personal responsibility. He said he’s been observing people who are wearing masks and many do it improperly, not covering both nose or mouth and touching the mask repeatedly. He said there is a whole body of science that says masks are detrimental. Calzone thinks people need more education. They should wear masks around old people, and if someone feels a bit sick they should stay away from other people. He said he’s concerned about health departments selling their pitch to the local entities. They aren’t having public hearings, he said, or if they do, speakers are limited to two minutes. Calzone questioned if a county commission has the statutory authority to pass a mask ordinance, saying there is a legal argument about its authority. He said it would be worth looking at if the commissioners are pushed to do a mask ordinance.

“It’s not on the table for us,” Stratman said. Fagre said he’s heard about the Phelps County mask ordinance. Calzone said not wearing one carries a punishment of a misdemeanor charge and possible time in jail. Fagre said that times are rough and if they’re in jail they get fed.

Stratman said in March Sweden didn’t lock down or wear masks and now that country is hit hard.

Drewel said when the vaccine comes out it will kill it. Calzone said he’s been reading about this and said there are about seven vaccines and they make the symptoms less. He said already the symptoms are minimal for the majority of the population. He told the commissioners he does not put a lot of stock in the vaccines and believes the virus must run its course and all that’s being done now is pushing the spike in infections off. It may be better to have over-loaded hospitals upfront.

Drewel said with the vaccine, we don’t know what will happen in three years.

Stratman said nobody has asked the commissioners to do a mask ordinance for the whole county. Things would have to change for them to consider it.

CARES Act money

The commissioners talked about the CARES Act request from Dixon Ambulance District for $32,196.68 to pay for two Lucas chest compression systems to outfit each of the district’s two front-line, in-service ambulances.

The request stated the machines safely provide high-quality chest compressions, which has become more difficult to do because of COVID-19. High-quality chest compressions require frequent change-out of fresh compressors, usually volunteer firemen first responders. Because of the virus, fewer and fewer first responders want to assist on medical calls as it increases the chances of encountering a COVID-19 patient. This is where the assistance of an automated compression device would be beneficial.

Stratman said about 40 percent of the Dixon Ambulance District is in Maries County, with the largest portion of the district being in Pulaski County and only a small part of it in Phelps County. Maries County can pay its portion. Phelps County is out of CARES Act money. Stratman said the district is buying something specific with the money and won’t be counting on the other counties to pay a portion to make it happen. He thought they should fund it.

Drewel asked about the Bland Fire District’s request. Stratman said he needs to talk to the Fire chief about it but doesn’t think they can fund the full request of $64,000. Fagre asked when Treasurer Rhonda Slone is holding for Maries County’s reimbursement.

“Let’s don’t mess around and overspend ourselves,” Drewel said. Fagre said the government is spending money and things are still bad.

“It’s only going to get worse, I think,” Drewel said. On TV he saw survey results that about 56 percent of Americans say they won’t take the vaccine. He said what needs to be done is giving out $1,500 stimulus checks and getting the check can be tied to getting that vaccination.

Stratman contacted Bland Fire Chief Doug Nochta, telling him Maries County could fund 25 percent of the request and wanted to know if not receiving 75 percent of the request would “knock you out of the whole project?” He said maybe more funds will come out later and the fire district “could get your name in sooner with Gasconade County.” Stratman said he was told the fire district will resubmit its funding request by a quarter of the original request, trimming it down to buying some of the items it needs. “We can pay that,” he said.

The Bland Fire District is 25 percent in Maries County and 25 percent in Osage County, and 50 percent in Gasconade County.

The firemen are asking for turnout gear and the first request included a sanitizing machine, which was very expensive. This big line item will be pulled out of the request.

Stratman said funding the Dixon Ambulance District’s request and all of the Bland Fire District’s request would bring down the county’s CARES Act money to about $81,000. But if Bland Fire’s request is reduced, it will add about $50,000 to the total they have remaining. The county still needs money to help the health department, pay MRPC for its administration of the money, fund the county’s request for reimbursement of expenses, and pay for the single audit.

Nochta didn’t waste any time and by Thursday’s meeting, an amended request was submitted for $14,945.42. It was a representative amount of the Bland Fire District located in Maries County. They looked at it and bought specific items. Stratman commented, “It was a good way to go, I thought.”

The money will be used to buy four sets of turnout/bunker gear for the firemen. This is considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and includes coats, pants, gloves, boots and helmets. Also in the request is funding for 10 handheld radios. MRPC pre-approved the request. Stratman said there is no guarantee there will be more CARES Act money in the future, but they can’t be sure. They approved the request. About $130,814 remains after the commissioners approved the Dixon Ambulance District and Bland Fire District requests.

Single audit

At last Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners opened three bids for Maries County’s single audit of its $1,020,000 CARES Act money. In the United States, the single audit, subpart F of the OMB Uniform Guidance, is a rigorous, organization-wide audit or examination of an entity that expends $750,000 or more of federal assistance received for its operations, according to Wikipedia.

Devereux and Company, St. Charles, gave references that included Miller and Dent counties and Maries County also was listed as a county it had performed work for in the past. Devereux bid $13,500 for the single audit.

CLA Clifton, Larson, Allen, LLP, St. Louis, bid $23,000 and also cited a lot of experience auditing counties.

Daniel Jones & Associates, Arnold, bid $21,800 but gave the county a discount of $1,800 for a total bid of $20,000.

County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said she doesn’t know when the auditors will come or how long they will be at the courthouse obtaining their information. Every county has to have this single audit of its federal CARES Act money.

Stratman said he can see no reason not to go with the lowest bid. Rodgers said they all were given the same specifications. They decided to accept the low bid from Devereux. Stratman contacted all of them. Devereux informed him staff will be on-site for about 10 days. Stratman asked the billing be done before the end of the year as they plan to use CARES Act money to pay the bill from the auditors. He thanked the other two companies for submitting a bid.

The commissioners were expecting to pay more for the audit so the lower bid frees up more of the CARES Act money. Stratman said he thinks there are more requests for the money at MRPC and there is still time to turn in requests. “We haven’t cut it off yet but we advise people it’s getting close,” Stratman said.

Covid-19 money for farmers

Stratman reported the Farm Service Agency in Linn has a COVID-19 funding program for farmers due to the reduced price in commodities. The deadline for the second round is Dec. 11. Farmers who want to participate can contact the office in Linn and find out how to apply. There was an early round in May and a similar round in August and most farmers who participated got money from both rounds. “If funds are available, they need to take advantage of it,” he said.

Rental assistance

Stratman received an email from Missouri Ozarks Community Action agency (MOCA), Richland, about CARES Act funding of $30,000 available for rental assistance and utility bills for people in the region who need assistance. People who need help should contact MOCA soon as the funding is limited.

Virus

Fagre reported one of his Road One workers is quarantined at home because of possible exposure to the virus. It was reported an employee in the prosecuting attorney’s office has the virus now.

Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz said Jennifer Berhorst called and said Sinks Pharmacy is doing COVID-19 rapid tests for $75 each.

Rodgers reported her colleague in Camden County is getting better. He had a very scary brush with the virus and could have died. His progress is slow as he’s on a feeding tube still. She said its scary how the virus works. Stratman said, “It hits some people like ton of bricks.”

They don’t know if a courthouse Christmas party will be possible this year.

Local business

Fagre said he was told by a Weidinger Chevrolet employee the business is closing on Dec. 31, 2020.

Volunteerism

Stratman reported he plans to nominate Wilma Stephen for a 2020 volunteerism award through MPRC. Stephen is a long-time member of the Maries-Osage Ambulance District (MOAD) Board but has recently stepped down from that responsibility due to illness. Stephen also does taxes at no cost for senior citizens and is a poll worker.

The annual MRPC meeting usually is held in October but it was not held this year, and instead has been postponed to the spring of 2021.

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