Federal disaster declaration includes Maries County

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 10/4/23

VIENNA — The Maries County Commission at its Sept. 25 meeting reviewed a notice of a federal disaster declaration for several Missouri counties, including Maries.

On Sept. 5, Gov. Mike …

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Federal disaster declaration includes Maries County


VIENNA — The Maries County Commission at its Sept. 25 meeting reviewed a notice of a federal disaster declaration for several Missouri counties, including Maries.

On Sept. 5, Gov. Mike Parson requested the federal declaration following severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding throughout the state from July 29 to Aug. 14. On Sept. 21, President Joe Biden approved the declaration. State, tribal and local governments and select nonprofit organizations may apply for federal funding on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities that the storms damaged.

Andrew P. Meyer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is the federal coordinating officer for the disaster area. The declaration does not include any assistance for individuals. It only requests assistance for 33 counties. All areas in the state are eligible for help under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

When Parson first issued his request, Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said the Road One crew had been totaling damages to ensure Maries County met the minimum threshold for inclusion in the disaster declaration.


At the Sept. 28 meeting, Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman asked IT Manager Shane Sweno about a recent cyberattack on the county.

According to a Sept. 25 Facebook post by Maries County Emergency Management, the courthouse was the subject of cyberattacks for a few days before peaking and ending that morning. The notice reported the attack began slowly the prior week. At first, it appeared as issues with the phone and internet at the courthouse, which are common occurrences. Over that weekend, the administrative phones, radio connectivity and 911 lines experienced problems. Calls would ring throughout the courthouse, but people answering phones were unable to hear anyone calling. The post said the emergency management team knew of only one delayed 911 call. The team will send out a notification through the CodeRED system and post on social media if another attack occurs in the future.

Sweno said someone attacked the courthouse, but they were unable to penetrate the cybersecurity systems. He compared it to someone constantly knocking at the door of a house but unable to get inside. The routers were trying to “answer the door” and respond to the signals the attackers sent, but there were so many signals that it tied up the router and caused issues with the phones and other communications systems in the courthouse.

The attacks were so frequent that they slowed communications, but they were not severe enough to trigger any alerts of a cyberattack. That led to a delay in fixing the problem because it seemed like a normal connectivity issue. After Sweno checked the firewall log, he realized it was a cyberattack causing the issues.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said it seemed that all the cybersecurity purchases the commission authorized paid off during the attacks.

Fagre asked if the attackers targeted any other places in the area.

Sweno said he had not heard of any other local attacks.

“Thanks for having all those locks put up for that,” Fagre said.

“We really did need it,” Drewel said. “It seemed like way too much money back then to be spending, but it all comes around now.”

New Equipment,
Internet service

After discussing the cyberattack, Sweno recommended new equipment for the courthouse. The server in the county clerk’s office and the server in the public administrator’s office both use the Windows Server 2012 operating system. Beginning Oct. 10, Microsoft will no longer support those systems. He said the county could replace just the servers, but the hardware for them is about seven years old. His recommendation was to update both the server and hardware for about $4,300 each.

Sweno also requested a new IT laptop for $1,500.

Drewel said to “get it done” and the other commissioners agreed.

Sweno also came to the Sept. 25 meeting to discuss the county’s internet contract. The county terminated its contract with internet provider Windstream. Sweno said that after he talked with Windstream the county would not face any fees for canceling the contract before it was set to expire next April. The county may receive credit because it paid taxes for the service when it should have been tax-free. MOREnet is the courthouse’s new internet provider.

During the Sept. 28 meeting, Sweno said he had just finished switching the last office to MOREnet. The courthouse’s internet speed increased from 50 megabits per second to 80 megabits per second as part of the switch.

Request for Vacation

David Finch, a sixth-generation owner of the Bowles farm near Belle, attended the Sept. 25 commission meeting to start the process of returning the Bowles Cemetery to private ownership. Finch’s family deeded the cemetery to the county in the late 1970s. The farm completely surrounds the cemetery property, which includes graves dating back to the 1820s.

An easement leads to the cemetery. Finch said he has an issue with it because people could drive through his property at any time. He also had concerns about vandalism after someone damaged gravestones at nearby Bowles Chapel Cemetery earlier this year.

Finch said the only people buried in the cemetery are members of his family. The family established a cemetery board to maintain the cemetery grounds. His family is working on establishing a nonprofit organization to govern the cemetery. With the commission’s approval, he would want the county to deed the cemetery land to the nonprofit. The plan would also revoke public access to the easement leading to the cemetery.

“I don’t see why we’d have a problem with that as long as you do all the legal paperwork,” Stratman said.

Fagre and Drewel agreed that they would like to talk to Prosecuting Attorney Tony Skouby to ensure the county could give back the land.

Finch said he knew the county could not provide an immediate answer. He just wanted to get the process started.

Tax Revenue

As the third quarter of 2023 came to an end, Treasurer Angie Stricklan shared figures for both sales taxes and fuel taxes so far this year.

So far this year, the first sales tax fund has brought $274,737.39 to General Revenue compared to $252,071.83 at this time last year. September 2023 decreased by about two percent from last September’s total.

The second sales tax, which gives one-third to each of General Revenue, Citizens Safety and Roads, has brought the county $273,053.95 in revenue so far this year. September 2023 decreased by about three percent from the previous September.

The third sales tax has raised $273,054.01 in revenue this year. Two-thirds of the tax supports Citizen Safety. Roads and General Revenue split the other one-third. September 2023 decreased by about three percent from the previous September.

The law enforcement sales tax has brought in $90,652.02 this year, which is about $7,500 more than this time last year. September 2023 decreased by about one percent from last September’s total.

The use tax on online orders has brought in $232,668.67 so far this year, which is more than last year’s $177,029.33 total for the whole year. September 2023 increased by about 60 percent from the previous September.

Motor fuel taxes total $347,858.59 so far this year compared to $287,288.02 at this time last year. September 2023 increased by about 18 percent from the previous September.

Motor vehicle taxes total $85,659.42 so far this year compared to $78,838.22 at this time last year. September 2023 decreased by about 16 percent from the previous September.

Motor vehicle fees total $38,477.91 so far this year compared to $37,791.12 at this time last year. September 2023 decreased by about seven percent from the previous September.

Record Storage Grant

Stricklan stopped by the Sept. 28 meeting to tell the commission about a storage grant available from the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. She said previously the office had separate grants for digital storage and local storage as part of its Local Records Preservation Grant Program. The 2025 version of the grant will combine the two.

Through the program, Maries County is eligible for a grant of up to $20,000 to help with its storage needs. The grant does not need a fund match by the county. It can cover costs including storage, shelving, supplies for specific projects related to record storage, imaging, digitizing, conservation materials and electronic records management equipment.

Stricklan said if the county wants to use the grant to construct a storage space, she would need to submit a rough draft of the building plans by November. Otherwise, the grant application is due next March.

Fagre asked County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers if the grant would help record keeping in the county clerk’s office.

Rodgers said once the office did have someone come in and microfilm the county commission record books up to that point. She said though the office has some documents microfilmed, it has no way to read them.

Stricklan said historical societies and other nonprofits may also benefit from the program.

The commissioners agreed the county should apply for the grant.

Solar Panels

Rodgers asked if the commission wanted her to respond to a recent request from residential solar company That Solar LLC about the county’s lack of planning and zoning regulations. Previously, the commission had wanted every solar company that sent the request to attend a meeting so the commissioners could meet them face-to-face.

The commissioners had discussed taking a different approach to residential solar projects because residents were getting the panels for their personal use. Stratman said he thought it would be okay to send the response for the residential project. He said for now he did not think the county should reply to the other requests.

Bridge Improvements

The county received its first bill for the bridge replacement project on Maries Road 213 over Fly Creek. The project is part of the Regional Bridge Program, so the county will receive reimbursement from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for most of the cost. MoDOT’s reimbursement should cover $9,609.36 of the initial $11,007.39 bill.

Rodgers said she had received dates from MoDOT for when other area bridge projects should begin. The project on Route P is scheduled for Oct. 23. Highway 28 is scheduled for Dec. 4. Route C is scheduled for March 4.

Cell Tower

Chief Deputy Scott John said at the Sept. 28 meeting that phone service at the courthouse and the Maries R-1 campus had improved after the AT&T cell phone tower near the Vienna Public Cemetery went operational last week.


Two representatives from Aflac came to the Sept. 28 meeting to talk to the commission about the county’s supplemental insurance offerings. Earlier in September, the commission declined to add Globe Life Liberty National as a supplemental insurance provider for county employees to avoid having multiple providers. The commission decided to not offer Aflac for the same reason.