Maries County CARES Act money nearly depleted

County will keep remainder to pay its own COVID-19 related expenses

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 12/2/20

VIENNA — Maries County is getting down to the end of its CARES Act money, with the Maries County Commissioners last week saying they may be done as what is left likely will be needed to pay …

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Maries County CARES Act money nearly depleted

County will keep remainder to pay its own COVID-19 related expenses

Posted

VIENNA — Maries County is getting down to the end of its CARES Act money, with the Maries County Commissioners last week saying they may be done as what is left likely will be needed to pay expenses the county has incurred administering the money and for the audit.

At the commission’s meetings last week, they looked at four reimbursement requests from the Maries R-1 School District, the Phelps-Maries Health Department, Bland Fire District and Dixon Ambulance District. The county initially received $1,020,000 in CARES Act money to be distributed to public entities and businesses in the county that requested reimbursement for expenses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

At last Monday’s meeting, Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said they put a Sept. 1,2020 deadline on business requests. MRPC staff reported being contacted by a couple of businesses asking if they can apply at this time. The commissioners were not sure if there would be any money left because Maries County is requesting money to pay MRPC for its administrative work with the CARES Act money. Also, the county will hold back money for paying for the single audit it has to do on this money, which is estimated to cost up to $30,000. In addition, the county has COVID-19 related expenditures it will seek reimbursement for. Stratman estimated the county will hold back $76,000 to $81,000 of the remaining CARES Act money.

The four requests received Monday included three from Maries R-1 School for $2,102, $5,789 and $22,914.87. The Phelps-Maries Health Department is requesting $10,614.39. The Bland Fire District requested $64,426.94. If the commissioners approved all of these requests there will be about $113,463 left of the CARES Act money.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel wondered “what does MRPC have laying over there,” as he suggested there may be more requests for the money they haven’t seen yet.

Treasurer Rhonda Slone said right now Maries County has about $11,000 in documented expenses it wants to be reimbursed for.

“We may be done,” Drewel commented. MRPC pre-approves the requests and the requests go to them first. The commissioners see the pre-approved requests later. It was reported MRPC has additional requests for the money still to come.

The commission questioned the Bland Fire District asking for money from Maries County as only a portion of the fire district is in Maries County. They said it’s about 25 percent and the rest of the district’s area is in Gasconade County. Stratman said there is no precedence for this and the county can do what it wants and fund all, a part, or none of it. The Bland Fire District is requesting money for turnout gear, a sanitizing machine, and related items. Drewel said you can’t blame them for trying.

At Wednesday’s meeting, held a day early because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Stratman said if they funded 25 percent of the request from Bland Fire District, he was told the fire district will not be able to “come up with the rest of it,” which is about $50,000. He wondered if they were turned down by Gasconade County or if Gasconade County already has given away all of its CARES Act money.

Gasconade County is indeed at the end of its $1.725 million CARES Act money. In mid-November MRPC informed that county it would no longer accept applications for reimbursement as there were more applications than dollars available, as reported Nov. 18 by the Gasconade County Republican.

In Maries County, the Dixon Ambulance District requested a $32,000 reimbursement. This is another district that contains only a certain portion of Maries County with the most area of the district being in Pulaski County.  Stratman said they may not fund the Bland Fire District’s request and if they pay some of the Dixon Ambulance District’s request, it will bring down the total to about $81,000. He thinks they should “shut it down and leave the rest of the money for the county to use.”

Shane Sweno, IT Coordinator, was at the meeting briefly and Stratman asked him if he could tell them how much of Dixon Ambulance District is actually located in Maries County. Sweno said he can get that information. Stratman said paying for Maries County’s part “is the fair way to go. We don’t want to pay the whole bill.” When Dixon School asked for CARES Act money, it noted how many Maries County students are in that district. The Dixon Ambulance District is requesting funding for two Lucas chest compression systems to outfit each of the district’s two front-line/in-service ambulances. 

Health Insurance

Darrell Decker called to inform the commissioners about the health insurance consortium he is working with. Decker is a former Greene County Commissioner and has been working with this consortium for 12 years. This year there are 12 counties that want to come in the consortium. He wanted to know what the commission’s intent is going forward as the county has been approved. Decker set up the consortium to have a larger group to offer health insurers and to get better rates on premiums.

There are four plans to choose from with ranges in deductibles and more and the county can choose one plan or use all of them.

The commissioner’s question was the co-insurance after the deductible is met. They prefer 100 percent, but Decker said the plans are 80/20 after deductible and after a total out-of-pocket is met, then it’s 100 percent. All co-pays go toward the deductible. The commissioners asked the info be sent to them. The premium is about $50 less a month per employee than what they are paying now.

After looking over the information, at Wednesday’s meeting Stratman said he does not see where it will help the county much by joining the consortium. Some money may be saved but the co-insurance after the deductible won’t be a savings. Everyone likes the 100 percent insurance after the deductible. He suggested they stay with what they have with Anthem through the Wallstreet Group, brokered by Brad Roark.

Another insurance salesman failed to get back to them by the deadline. Clerk’s Deputy Renee Kottwitz said its time consuming to get all of the info together these companies request. Drewel said they have to weigh it all out. They decided to stay with the company and insurer they use now and asked that Roark be notified that his company gets the county’s health insurance business for another year.

FEMA Money

Stratman said MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge said there  is COVID-19 money available through FEMA for Dent, Maries, Pulaski and Phelps counties. There is a deadline for applying for the money that can be used for emergency management.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said it won’t hurt to apply. They can ask for money to buy face masks, temperature scanning, basically anything virus related.

Later they had more information and decided to apply for the maximum amount of $131,000. County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said they can apply for it and if received, it will be there if they need it. She submitted the application.

911 Grant Approval

In early November, the county entered into an agreement with the City of Rolla for a 911 grant to be used to bring the county’s 911 Dispatch equipment from analog to an internet-based system. The grant is through the Missouri 911 Service Board.

The county was successful and was approved for the grant, which will pay for the equipment upgrade. They congratulated Sweno for the successful application. The grant application was for 100 percent of the project’s cost of $242,000. Both Rolla and Maries County will put in services and new hardware, including two new dispatch stations, which will be put on the internet. Rolla and Maries County will set up a fiber connection. Sweno and it will be as though they are both in the same room with that fiber connection.

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 transfer calls and to take text messages. Texting 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 per minute. Sweno said he wants to be done with AT&T.

At the time when the application was made, Sweno told the commissioners the prospects looked good for a successful grant application and he thought the partnership with the City of Rolla will help as well.

Buildings and grounds

The commissioners checked with Custodian Dave Juergens on the current supply of masks and asked him to order about 500 more of them while they still have CARES Act money to pay for them. They found some on Amazon quite a bit cheaper than what they paid earlier.

The annual workers compensation insurance premium through MAC is lower for 2021 at $37,988. There was only one claim in 2020 for $1,705. Last year the annual premium was $45,131.

Rodgers reported receiving a maintenance contract plan, a log sheet and other information from Schindler Elevator. Stratman said the issue was to have it posted in the elevator and other information on file. He said they should be good until the February inspection.

There are 14 boxes of ceiling tiles in the basement and Stratman wondered what they might do with them. Fagre said they don’t match what currently is used in the drop ceilings in the courthouse. A previous custodian got them. Stratman wondered if they are left over from when they put the new drop ceiling in the courtroom. He said they could be used to redo the ceiling in a room as the ceilings in individual rooms in the courthouse don’t need to match the others. Kottwitz said the sheriff has talked about having a sale in the spring and maybe they could go on that. Stratman said it makes for a messy area. Drewel asked if anybody goes there. Stratman said the custodian can change out the ceiling tiles as needed.

The commissioners want to get the porch painted when there’s a nice day and also the stairwells. They said to get the paint for both so it will be there when he’s ready to do the job.

Stratman checked with Public Administrator Carol Schulte about two file cabinets from when the EJ Meyer held the office. She said she will come in and clean them out next week, saying she is the one who should do it. She may want to leave the file cabinets in the room. Rodgers said they probably need to be locked up and left there. Some things they aren’t supposed to throw away.

Stratman said maybe the file cabinets need to be marked and put a date on it the same as you would mark a box. It may help someone in the future who is searching for something.

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