Many Maries County people were shocked on Jan. 19 when the Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported the county’s number of active cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus within one week had …
Many Maries County people were shocked on Jan. 19 when the Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported the county’s number of active cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus within one week had increased over 200 percent. On Jan. 12 the number of active cases was 56. On Jan. 19 the health department reported 128 active cases.
Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman was participating in the Maries County County Commission meeting via telephone as a family member had the virus. Everyone in the room knew someone or of many persons who have the virus, and of multiple persons who are in quarantine. Everyone also knows some of the Maries County people who died of COVID-19.
Stratman said he would be out of the office for 10 days. Treasurer Rhonda Slone and County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers told him they have documents that need his signature and they arranged to get the documents to him for that.
Rodgers said the drivers testing at the courthouse on Wednesday was one of the busiest days they’d ever had. People were lined up all day in the hallway with the excess spilling into the front hallway. Several of the drivers license examiners were gone due to COVID-19 or for other reasons and it was a very busy day with customers. The examiners asked if the county wants them to keep coming to the courthouse or if they should suspend it because of COVID-19. “Would we rather them not come for awhile?” Rodgers asked the commissioners.
Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said “They aren’t bothering us,” and he favored keeping the drivers testing going.
Stratman said he didn’t want to suspend the testing and he doesn’t want to shut down the courthouse either.
The drivers license testing is twice a month, on the first and third Wednesdays.
Maries County is officially ending its trash patrol program in the form it used to be. Ken Ramsey began the program and handled it well for many years. A new 2015 4WD basic Chevrolet truck was purchased for the program using a grant and money from Road One which purchased the program’s old 2WD Chevy truck. The newer truck has not been used for trash patrol for some time.
The county received a grant through the Ozark Rivers Solid Waste Management District (ORSWMD), which supported the trash patrol’s activities. Ramsey and helpers, some of them persons doing their community service, cleaned up dump sites and routine trash dumping along Maries County’s many gravel roads. MRPC helped the county with this grant every year.
Stratman said the philosophy of the program has changed, he thinks from the higher hierarchy which determines what the grant programs will look like. The emphasis has changed from cleaning up trash to educating people and students about the importance of recycling.
After Ramsey retired, the Maries County Sheriff’s Office took over the program, the grant money, and the truck. With the change in emphasis from trash pick-up to recycling education, the sheriff’s office does not have the staff, time, money or anywhere to put items to be recycled.
Stratman said it is not feasible anymore with not enough funding or staff and COVID-19 has just made it more difficult. The commissioners made the decision to sell the truck and they no longer will apply for the grant, at least at this time. The grant most recently was $3,750, but the commissioners said in the past it was more than that.
Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said they will have to go back to asking the road district workers to pick it up as they did in the past.
The commissioners have been working on the budget all last week. Some county employees also worked on the MLK holiday to attempt to get caught up.
The commissioners approved continuing the county’s Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) membership. The county’s annual dues are $1,697.
The county received the bill for the two 911 dispatch chairs recently purchased for $723 a chair. Stratman said they talked to IT Manager Shane Sweno about the chairs. He said a dispatcher sits in his/her chair for 12 hours at a time and a good chair is important.
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Major Scott John was at the meeting briefly and he said he did not approve of the chair purchase, saying they could buy a new chair every year for seven years at that price.
Stratman said they thought the dispatchers needed a good chair. He said there are a lot of expenses they have to watch.
The Visitation Knights of Columbus are planning a drive-thru fundraiser on Feb. 12 to benefit the Vienna Volunteer Fire Protection District’s operations. Vienna Fire is facing a $30,000 repair bill for its ladder truck, which it wants to continue to keep if it can afford it.
Running for office
A young man walked into the county commission meeting last Thursday and said he’s running for State Representative of the 143rd District, which has been changed to include Maries County, Texas County and half of Phelps County. The districts have not yet been determined, he told the commissioners.
Phillip Lohmann, 27, said he thinks his opponent in the Republican primary election will be Benny Cook. He was at the meeting to introduce himself.
Lohmann lives between Rolla and Doolittle and has lived in Missouri about eight years, moving to this state from Oklahoma. He currently works at Hobby Lobby and previously worked at the Walmart Distribution Center. Before that he worked at an airplane supply coming before losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was home-schooled by his mother.
He said if elected he will work to reduce the gasoline tax and state property tax. Drewel asked Lohmann how a county, for example, is supposed to make up the difference in revenue if they lose gasoline tax and property taxes. He said people who are buying a home would pay property taxes, but once the home is theirs, they would not pay taxes on it again.
Fagre said it sounds like one of those deals where the State Legislature makes a decision and pushes the payment of it down to the counties. He told Lohmann the county gets a portion of the gasoline tax and it is helpful for the road districts. Lohmann said he’s only talking about the most recent 2.5 cents added by the legislature, which he said “block a public vote on the issue,” which he said upset a lot of people. He also stated a lot of the members of the legislature did not bother to show up to vote on it.
Drewel asked him where does he think that money will come from if it’s taken away and Lohmann said traffic tickets. Drewel said there are 17 inmates currently in the Maries County Jail and that number used to be about nine. “Those people don’t have any money,” Drewel said. Lohmann replied taxes can be added to cigarettes and vaping items at a rate of 19 percent. Fagre said adding more taxes to those items will hurt poor people.
Major Scott John was present and he said third class counties such as Maries County do not receive money from the state tickets.
Lohmann said he thinks county and local governments should have more authority. Drewel asked him if he is in favor of giving the sheriff a raise and he said he is. Then, Drewel asked who will pay for it and he said the county. Drewel said they pass something in Jefferson City and send it down to the county to pay for, saying “you boys pay for it.” He told him the State Legislature has already passed this. The governor signed it too.
Lohmann said “I wanted to get your opinion.”
“You’re getting it,” Drewel replied. Major John told him that Drewel is saying the state should not pass laws and make county pay for it.
Lohmann said the only thing Benny Cook is concerned with is police reform and little else.
Something he thinks should be changed, Lohmann said, it taking the driver’s license away from a person who is behind on child support. “How are they supposed to get to work?” He said.
He became interested in running for state office when he attended a Republican Lincoln Day event in Springfield. The politicians all talked “about policies nobody cares about.” Also, once in the legislature, many of them don’t show up to vote.
Stratman, who was on the phone listening, said, “I like to look people in the face.” Lohmann told him he planned to attend Maries County’s upcoming Lincoln Day event.
He restated that taking away the state property tax will bring businesses.
He told them he is autistic and is a good problem solver because of it.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here