Maries County Commissioners discuss emergency lights, grants

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 5/31/23

VIENNA — Over the last several months, the Maries County Commission and Coroner David Martin have been in discussions to get safety lights for one of the coroner’s office vehicles. In …

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Maries County Commissioners discuss emergency lights, grants


VIENNA — Over the last several months, the Maries County Commission and Coroner David Martin have been in discussions to get safety lights for one of the coroner’s office vehicles. In January, Martin first requested the lights and provided bids. The commissioners thought that the price for lights was too high, and they requested that Martin come to a meeting and talk to them about the lights. On May 15, they sent him a letter to ask that he attend an upcoming meeting.

At the May 22 commission meeting, Deputy Coroner Amanda Sandbothe brought the commissioners two bids for lights. One bid from Radio Comm Co. in Washington would cost $4,254.79, and $4,085.08 was the cost of a bid from WirelessUSA in Jefferson City.

“We have talked about this several times, and we think (Martin) is being excessive on his requests,” Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said.

Sandbothe asked if the commissioners would want her to try to simplify the bids. The bids included lights on the windows, but she said the front and back of the vehicle were the most important places for lights.

Stratman asked if a lightbar would work because the lights would show in the front and back and it would probably have a simpler installation. Sandbothe said she could check on lightbar prices.

Stratman asked how often the coroner’s office responds to emergency situations.

Sandbothe said since she has been working with the office last year, there have been about five. When she responds to a roadside scene, there is not always another emergency vehicle there to park behind her to alert other drivers because other emergency vehicles may leave to respond to other calls. She said it would be nice to have the lights on the coroner’s vehicle, especially at night. So far this year, there have been no fatalities in vehicle crashes in Maries County.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel suggested that Sandbothe should talk with the sheriff’s office to see if it had any old lights that the coroner’s office could use or if someone there would be able to estimate what a lightbar would cost.

Sandbothe said she would ask the sheriff’s office. While she was at the meeting, she also said the coroner’s office would like to sell an electric cot that it does not use. An ambulance district had expressed interest in buying it. The commissioners said the office could sell the cot.

After Sandbothe left, all three commissioners said they would like to talk with Martin before they do anything about the lights.

“He needs to come and talk to us,” Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said.

Cell Towers

On May 11, first responders and residents from Maries and Osage counties met at the Maries-Osage Ambulance District’s Vienna base to discuss internet and cell phone issues with two representatives from AT&T. At the meeting, AT&T’s Regional Director of External Affairs Jeremy Ketterer suggested that government entities in the area work to find grant options for broadband expansion or cell phone towers in the area. Ketterer also confirmed that the cell phone tower that has recently been under construction off Highway 42 next to the Vienna Public Cemetery is an AT&T tower. He estimated that it would be operational sometime next year.

Stratman attended the meeting with AT&T, and at the May 25 commission meeting, he said he had gotten an application for the Missouri Cell Towers Grant Program, which the Missouri Department of Economic Development oversees. He wanted to know how feasible such a project would be for the county, so to start he asked how the internet connectivity is at the courthouse.

“It depends on what day it is,” County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said.

Deputy County Clerk Renee Kottwitz said the connection had been poor the morning of the meeting, but the issues related to the county’s internet provider, Windstream Communications, rather than anything at the courthouse. She recommended talking to I.T. Manager Shane Sweno about internet performance at the courthouse.

Stratman said he would talk with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission to help with the application.

Storm Cleanup grant

Kottwitz said the county received the grant it applied for from the state that will reimburse some of the money spent on storm cleanup from the April 15 tornado. At a commission meeting in April, Emergency Management Director Scott John said he planned to apply for the grant, which could recover up to $200,000 the county spent on cleanup efforts.

The data the county submitted for the grant estimated a cost of $61,792.50 toward cleanup. The grant distributors approved that amount, so the county can receive up to half that amount in reimbursement after it turns in documentation of the expenses. The county has until 90 days after the damage occurred to submit the documentation.

Senate Bill 190

Rodgers asked the commissioners if they had received any information about Senate Bill 190, which the General Assembly passed before the end of the session earlier this month. At the time of the meeting, it was awaiting Governor Mike Parson’s signature.

The bill, if signed, will allow Missouri counties to grant property tax credits to eligible taxpayers. County commissioners may enact it through an ordinance, or the public can submit a petition to county commissioners to run the credits as a ballot measure for voters to approve.

Residents eligible for the tax credits are also eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, the owner of record of or have a legal or equitable interest in a homestead and are liable for the payment of real property taxes on such homestead.

The tax credits would be equal to the difference between the real property tax liability on the homestead in a given year minus the real property tax liability on such homestead in the year in which the taxpayer became an eligible taxpayer.

Rodgers said the bill raised many questions that have been difficult to answer, such as if a property would be eligible for tax credits if its title names both spouses as owners but only one is eligible for the tax credit.

“We need to contact the governor’s office and tell him we think it’s better not to sign Senate Bill 190,” Fagre said.

Drewel asked what Maries County’s legislators had to say about it. State Sen. Justin Brown was one of 33 senators to vote for the bill. State Rep. Bennie Cook was one of 154 representatives to vote in favor of the bill. Only one senator and two representatives voted against the bill.

“I’m not against helping the seniors at all,” Rodgers said. “There’s just surely a better way of doing it.”

Stratman called the governor’s office and left a message to say that the Maries County Commission did not support the bill.

Senator Schmitt

Rodgers received an email from a representative from Sen. Eric Schmitt’s mid-Missouri field office. The office has already met with several counties in the area, and they would like to meet with the Maries County Commission.

“Earlier the better,” Fagre said.

Other Business

Sweno said at the May 25 meeting that he had been up on the roof to fix one of the jail TV antennas. After fixing the antenna and doing a channel search, the women’s jail got 48 channels.

Drewel said he noticed the Maries County University of Missouri Extension Office seems to be doing well and doing a lot of activities. The office recently changed its office hours to 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 12 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.

Stratman had found two boxes of damaged lightbulbs in a storage room at the courthouse before a previous meeting, but no one knew where the bulbs had come from. Kottwitz said she had asked around the courthouse, but no one knew the origin. Stratman suggested the box had been forgotten until someone took them down from a shelf and forgot to put them back. Drewel said he could find a use for the undamaged bulbs.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reimbursed the county $34,947.50 spent on the rock for roads leading to conservation areas in the county during the ending fiscal year.

The commissioners received a letter from the Gasconade Valley Enterprise Zone (GVEZ) thanking them for a $500 contribution to GVEZ fundraising.