Maries County applies for $240,000 grant for internet based 911 upgrade

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 11/4/20

VIENNA — The Maries County Commission last week signed a memorandum of agreement with the City of Rolla for a 911 grant they hope to obtain to bring the county’s 911 Dispatch equipment …

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Maries County applies for $240,000 grant for internet based 911 upgrade

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VIENNA — The Maries County Commission last week signed a memorandum of agreement with the City of Rolla for a 911 grant they hope to obtain to bring the county’s 911 Dispatch equipment from analog to an internet based system.

IT Coordinator Shane Sweno brought the paperwork to the commissioners. The grant application is for 100 precent of the project’s cost at $242,000. If this grant application is successful, both Rolla and Maries County would put in servers and new hardware and the 911 system will be put on the internet. Sweno said the two entities would set up a fiber connection. He said the new system would be “cutting edge.”

Currently Maries County pays about $1,400 a month to AT&T for the present system. Sweno wants it to be on the Windstream network, which would allow them to tie-in and transfers calls and to take text messages, which is the form of communication with 911 more and more people are wanting to do. It would be an IP based system and reduce redundancy.

Sweno spoke about getting rid of the last AT&T phone line in the courthouse, which is a fax line they use as a back-up for 911. He wants to switch to Windstream, which will cost about $60 a month compared to the $250 a month they pay AT&T for this line, which charges $3 a minute. Sweno said he wants to be done with AT&T.

He told the commissioners the prospects look good for a successful grant application and he thinks the partnership with the City of Rolla will help as well.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said they can’t get a grant if they don’t try.

MoDOT Priorities

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman talked about the MoDOT Legislative Agenda, issues the state transportation department is asking the Missouri Legislature to consider.

MoDOT would like to see a bill passed which prohibits all hand-held phone usage for all drivers, no matter what their age. The current law only prohibits hand-held phone usage for persons 21 and under.

Also, MoDOT supports a primary seal belt law if it is clearly visible to the law enforcement officer that the driver is not using he/her seat belt. With the current seat belt law, the driver has to be pulled over by law enforcement for something else before they can be charged with not wearing a seat belt. The current law has a $10 fine.

The state’s transportation department also supports changing how the fees are applied in state license offices, changing plate renewal fees based on a miles per gallon rating rather then the current way which rates fees on horse power.

MoDOT also supports an increase in Missouri’s gasoline tax, suggesting an increase of two cents per gallon each year for five years to equal a 10 cent increase after five years. This would be added to the current state gasoline tax of 17 cents per gallon to make a total of 27 cents per gallon state gasoline tax.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said he agrees with MoDOT needing more money because there are places where the roads are falling apart. There’s no money for MoDOT to do much of anything, he said.

CARES Act audit

Stratman said the county will need to advertise for a private auditor to audit how Maries County spent its CARES Act $1,020,000 money. Every county has to do this. MRPC will be sending the county a template for the bidding. County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said they need to have this done no later than Sept. 30, 2021. Stratman said they want to pay in advance so the county can use part of the CARES Act money to pay for the audit, which may be expensive. They recently estimated it could cost up to $30,000.

For August, MRPC was paid $692.30 for the work MRPC did for Maries County in pre-approving requests for CARES Act money.

Covid-19 coronavirus

The Covid-19 coronavirus is reaching into everyone’s lives. Rodgers expressed her concerns about a current county clerk and a former county clerk, her colleagues, who both have Covid-19 coronavirus. One of them is a man in his 50s. Both are on ventilators.

Drewel said he’s afraid it is going to get worse at a time when people have Covid fatigue. Everyone is tired of the virus.

Fuel taxes

Treasurer Rhonda Slone gave the commissioners motor fuel tax, motor V tax, and motor V fee numbers for October.

Motor fuel tax revenue of $27,465.89 during the month was less than collected during October 2019. Slone said motor fuel tax year-to-date is $257,803.92, which is down eight percent for the same period of time in 2019. Motor fuel tax is from fuel purchases.

The motor V tax is from the sale of vehicles and in Oct. it was $10,329.25, which is about $2,000 more than it was in Oct. last year. Year-to-date it has brought in $77,173.97, down four percent for the same time last year.

Motor V fee is from fees paid in the Vienna License Office and for Oct. it was $4,319.49, which is about the same amount it was in Oct. 2019. Year-to-date the motor V fees total $44,691.65, an eight percent increase from the same period of time in 2019. This category is thought to be higher because of the state mandated fee increase this year.

Fagre said the county’s license office continues to be popular because of its good service, friendly staff, and because there is plenty of room in the courthouse to accommodate customers. A customer from Rolla told him the license office in that town is so busy he had to stand outside in the summer heat. He told Fagre he likes to come to Vienna and enjoy the air conditioned courthouse as he waits he turn to use the license office.

Early voting

Stratman said he was working in the county commission room one day last week and there was a steady line of people coming to the county clerk’s office to vote. Rodgers said her office has been voting about 30 people a day and already the office is up to over 500 absentee ballots voted. She expects about 200 more and already has surpassed 2016 numbers when there were a total of 401 absentee ballots cast.

Railroad and Utilities

Rodgers gave the commissioners railroad and utility tax billing numbers for local and state assessed utility companies that do business in the county. Utility taxes will total $886,344.11 when paid this year. Of that amount, Maries County will receive revenue of $64,432.19. Road One will receive $28,361.42, and Road Two will receive $12,720.36. School districts receive the lion’s share of local tax revenues. The school districts will share $621,634.21.

It was mentioned Collector Jayne Williams will have the tax bills out to taxpayers any time now.

County Crisis Center

Rodgers had a letter from the Helping Hands Abuse & Crisis Center of Hickory County asking for funds to be sent to them. It was explained there is a Children’s Trust fee on marriage license sales. This is collected and sent to the Maries County Crisis Center, which is operated by the Russell House.

New Custodian

David Juergens of Vienna, has been hired as the new courthouse custodian and will begin working on Nov. 2. He will come in a day or two and talk with custodian Shawn Eaton, who has taken another job.

No trash patrol

Maries County didn’t apply for the trash patrol grant this year because the emphasis is no longer on picking up trash from the roadway. Now, it is educating people not to cause trash. This has not worked well this year like so many other things because of the Covid-19 coronavirus. The plan this year was to use some of the grant money to have county students collect plastic and it would be picked up and recycled. Also there would be education but now people can’t go into school buildings.

Stratman said they don’t want to use the Road One shed for a recycle event because it is too close to Osage County; they would rather use the Road Two shed on Highway 28. Drewel said Fagre’s shed is 11 miles from Osage County and the Road Two shed is actually closer to Osage County at seven miles away. He said Vichy is the place to have it.

Slaughter House

Stratman said they are making progress on the slaughter house, Farmer’s Meat Market, which is being developed in the former Wow Pizza building at the edge of the industrial development park purchased by Hippos along Highway V near Vienna. Chris Brundick of Argyle and Roger Schulte of Brinktown are the developers and are being assisted by USDA.

Stratman explained that last year a very big meat processing plant in Kansas burned. This plant was responsible for processing about 20 percent of the total kill in the United States. This left too much for the rest of the processing plants to be able to handle and it “rocked the cattle market” and then Covid-19 came and rocked the market again. Stratman said these animals have to go someplace as farmers can’t just keep feeding them. USDA has been pushing for the development of more, smaller meat processing plants.

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