Fish Hollow lawsuit set for trial next month

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 9/27/23

VIENNA — The lawsuit against the Maries County Commission about the Fish Hollow Access on Maries Road 306 is set for trial next month.

According to previous reporting, in March 2022, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Fish Hollow lawsuit set for trial next month


VIENNA — The lawsuit against the Maries County Commission about the Fish Hollow Access on Maries Road 306 is set for trial next month.

According to previous reporting, in March 2022, Eugene and Jacqueline Appel filed the lawsuit as a request for the court to determine whether the Fish Hollow Access to the Gasconade River is public or private land. As the petitioners, they request the court to declare the road and Fish Hollow as private and give them the ability to block or close public access to the road and Fish Hollow.

Maries Road 306 resides in the county’s eastern district. Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel has said the county has maintained the road.

As a bench trial, the judge overseeing the case will determine the outcome. Judge John Beger will preside over the trial, which begins at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13 at the Maries County Courthouse.

At the Sept. 21 commission meeting, the commissioners talked by phone with Prosecuting Attorney Tony Skouby. All three commissioners said they planned to attend the trial regardless of if they needed to testify.

Solar Panels

During the call with Skouby, the commission asked if he had read the sample lease agreement the county received from Vesper Energy, the company developing the Vichy Solar project.

“It’s a pretty standard lease for that type of operation,” Skouby said. “I don’t deal with a lot of those, but there wasn’t too much unexpected in there. It’s pretty one-sided toward (Vesper Energy). Of course, they wrote it. It’s their lease.”

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said he agreed that there were not many red flags in the document. His main concern after reading the document was that it did not mention decommissioning the sites at the end of the project lifespan. At a meeting in August, a development manager from Vesper Energy said the company handles the decommissioning.

Skouby said he saw nothing about decommissioning the project in the lease. He said if the company’s handling of the land dissatisfies them, they have the right to pursue legal damages, but the county has no say in it unless damages occur to county roads or property. The most the county could do is suggest landowners try to negotiate decommissioning into their leases with the solar companies.

At the same meeting, the commission reviewed a voicemail from yet another solar company. Robert Hill from Springfield-based That Solar LLC had called to request confirmation from the commission that Maries County does not have planning and zoning regulations that could interfere with a residential solar project the company is working on in the county.

“They just keep coming,” County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said about the solar companies. “We just keep getting phone calls. We just keep getting emails from all these different places.”

Stratman suggested responding to the request in the way the commission has responded to every other request by asking the company to send a representative to a commission meeting to talk with them.

“We can get a feel on how they do business,” he said.

Drewel asked what benefit the county gets from not confirming its lack of planning and zoning restrictions.

Stratman said if companies need the paper confirmation, the commission can at least get some face-to-face time with them.

Dispatch Pay

Chief Deputy Scott John came to the Sept. 21 meeting to inform the commission about the struggle trying to find employees for the county’s emergency dispatching center. He said the staffing is “okay for now” but there is an open spot for a full-time employee and an open spot for a part-time employee.

“We can’t recruit anybody,” he said. “We just don’t pay enough.”

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre asked if it is an issue everywhere.

John said that is not necessarily the case. Nearby dispatching centers pay two or more dollars more per hour as a base. Some of them also pay more for night shifts, which Maries County does not. When the sheriff’s office posts job listings, people sometimes call to inquire about the job and then express disinterest after finding out how much the job pays.

“Our starting salary down there is $15 an hour,” John said. “That is way too stressful of a job that requires way too much training. It requires someone that’s intelligent and calm under pressure and we’re not going to attract that quality candidate at $15 an hour. We’re going to have this perpetual revolving door down there that we’ve had for the 12 years I’ve been here.”

John said he has posted job listings for three or four months and failed to attract a candidate who is qualified and will show up for an interview.

Stratman asked what hours the dispatch center covers.

John said it has 24-hour coverage from the full-time employees. Part-time employees assist with the 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 3 to 11 p.m. shifts.

Stratman asked how much training dispatchers need.

John said the state requires 40 hours of training for dispatchers, but it takes much more experience from working on the job to get a dispatcher who fully understands the role.

Fagre asked if the 911 Fund could sustain raises for dispatch center employees.

John said the fund could handle it now because the center’s budget is for a full staff and it has not operated with a full staff. Going forward, it could probably not sustain raises. After running the figures, he determined that the dispatch center employees work about 15,000 hours each year. If everyone got a $1 per hour raise, the budget would need to cover an additional $15,000 in payroll. Another concern is that deputy pay is also below the area average.

“I guess at budget time will just have to try to find some money,” Fagre said.

“We need to have staff down there,” Stratman said.

“We’re doing the best we can,” John said. “We have a good team down there. I just want to make sure we keep them.”

Mass Notification System

During the Sept. 21 meeting, John also talked about the county’s new CodeRED mass notification system. Only about 200 people had signed up so far out of the county’s 8,000 or so residents.

John said some people had been reluctant to sign up with their phone numbers because of concerns about spam. He said the team with access to sending out notifications is very mindful of when to send something out and it will be mostly reserved for emergency situations such as severe weather.

The sheriff’s office will have a tent at the Belle Fall Festival on Sept. 30 to inform people about the system and help get them signed up on the spot.

Maries Road 213 Bridge

MECO Engineering President Scott Vogler called into the Sept. 21 meeting to update the commission about progress on the Maries Road 213 bridge over Fly Creek. The commission selected MECO Engineering from among three bidders on the project earlier this year.

Vogler said the company is finished with the survey of the bridge and is now working on the horizontal and vertical alignments. Once it completes the alignment, it will begin getting right-of-way agreements from the necessary landowners bordering the bridge. Negotiations should begin next month with bidding for construction happening in the spring.

Transporation Priorities

Stratman said he had attended a recent meeting of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s (MRPC) Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). At the meeting, he learned traffic deaths in MoDOT’s Central District, which encompasses 18 counties including Maries, had decreased from 94 at this time last year to 74 so far this year.

Representatives from MRPC plan to attend the Oct. 2 commission meeting to help the commission select the unfunded transportation priorities for the county. Once all eight of MRPC’s counties select their priorities, the TAC will vote on regional priorities.

The commissioners briefly discussed how they intend to prioritize county projects. All three agreed that their top priority this year is likely going to be the same as last year: adding a turn lane for vehicles traveling south on Highway 63 and making a left turn to travel east on Highway 28.


Stratman said he had recently attended a seminar MRPC organized about opioids. He said it was “very informative.” While there, he received a sample of naloxone nasal spray, often referred to by its brand name Narcan. He brought the sample to the meeting to put in one of the courthouse first aid kits.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. The medicine is available as both a nasal spray and an injectable treatment. NIDA recommends families with loved ones who struggle with opioid abuse keep it nearby so that in the event of an overdose they can administer it and then call 911. Naloxone is available over the counter at pharmacies and from agencies such as health departments.

More information about naloxone is available on the NIDA website at

Overgrown grass

Maries County resident Clifford Oesch visited the Sept. 18 meeting to ask the commissioners if they could help him get in contact with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) about a safety concern.

Oesch said he had tried to contact State Rep. Bennie Cook, but he had gotten no response from Cook’s office. He said he had concerns about the grass and weeds growing too tall on the western part of Highway 28. In some places, the grass had gotten so tall that it stood above his car. He mentioned the area around the Highway 28 Spur as a particular problem area.

Stratman said at this time of year, deer will be moving often.

Oesch said he had encountered a deer that morning. While traveling to the courthouse on Route E, he scared a deer that had been obscured by the grass. Instead of running into the road, it ran back into the grass.

Stratman called someone with MoDOT to ask when they planned to mow Highway 28. The person told him crews were heading for the area that day.

Oesch said he appreciated the commission for reaching out and asking about mowing. He said the tall grass is not only a traffic hazard, but it also makes the county look “unsightly.”