Maries County commissioners discuss upcoming legislation, marijuana tax

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 1/18/23

VIENNA — Former Presiding Commissioner Ray Schwartze, who is a field representative for State Senator Justin Brown, briefly visited the Jan. 3 Maries County Commission meeting. He told the …

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Maries County commissioners discuss upcoming legislation, marijuana tax

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VIENNA — Former Presiding Commissioner Ray Schwartze, who is a field representative for State Senator Justin Brown, briefly visited the Jan. 3 Maries County Commission meeting. He told the commissioners that there would not be much happening at the Capitol in January.

“Everybody is filing their bills,” he said. “Everyone is going to try, I think, to get some transportation money. I know a guy who filed to put $2 billion toward transportation. The bulk of that would go toward (interstates) 70 and 44.”

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman asked Schwartze about bills relating to solar energy, specifically concerning tax exemptions. At a previous meeting, the commissioners received a letter from Azimuth Renewables, LLC, which asked them to confirm the county has no planning and zoning laws. The company is facilitating the installation of solar panels on Lanes Prairie near the junction of Highway 28 and Highway Z. The commissioners showed concern that the county would no longer receive tax money once the land had solar panels on it.

“I wanna make sure the county doesn’t get screwed over on that,” Stratman said. “Someone is making money there, and the big companies don’t need to be making the money.”

“It’s a little bit early,” Schwartze said about solar energy discussions at the Capitol. “There are several bills. One wants it one way, and one wants it the other. They want to tax it, and they should.”

Stratman said he wanted the land to remain commercial so it would be eligible for taxation.

Schwartze said he thought the land would be commercial. “What they want to tax are the solar panels themselves,” he said. “And the equipment will be millions of dollars more than the land itself.”

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel asked at what percentage the bills proposed to tax the equipment. Schwartze said taxation would be at commercial rates.

“That would be a hell of a lot of money,” Drewel said. He also asked if taxation would apply to equipment put in before the bill passed, or if they would receive grandfather status.

“That won’t affect this deal,” Schwartze said.

marijuana tax

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said that the state would add a six percent tax to recreational marijuana sales and counties can propose ballot measures to set additional taxes up to three percent.

“I guess the way it sounds is just about every county is ready to jump on the bandwagon,” he said.

“It would be silly not to,” Drewel said.

In December, the commissioners voted to put a measure on the April ballot to add a three percent tax on recreational marijuana sales in Maries County. The two road districts would split two percent of the revenue, and the other percent would go toward the county’s General Revenue fund.

Phone directory

The commissioners noticed the county clerk’s office was redirecting most of the calls it received that morning and many other mornings.

“I’ve sat here and watched this phone ring all the time,” Drewel said. “It’s always for other offices. Why can’t we have it where when you call it has the other office’s numbers? It looks like it’s quite the hassle to me.”

“It is, especially when there’s a court date,” Deputy County Clerk Renee Kottwitz said. “We get all those calls.”

Fagre said the phone line used to work like that.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners asked Maries County IT Manager Shane Sweno to join them to discuss it.

Sweno told Stratman that right now, everyone in the courthouse has their own office line rather than connecting through a central directory number. He said setting up a system would involve a lot of programming, but he could check with the phone company to see what it would take to install a directory.

REAL ID

License office manager Jennifer Roberson stopped by the Jan. 5 meeting to tell the commissioners the office would close for an hour one day the next week so license office workers could receive training about REAL ID.

According to the Missouri Department of Revenue (MDOR), REAL ID comes from a federal law that established minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and ID cards. The law also prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes driver licenses and ID cards from states that do not meet these standards.

Beginning May 7, 2025, United States residents must present REAL ID-compliant identification to board federally regulated domestic flights, access federal facilities and enter nuclear power plants.

Missouri residents needing REAL ID should bring to a license office an acceptable document to verify full legal name and date of birth, an acceptable document to verify United States citizenship or immigration status, an acceptable document to verify Social Security number, two acceptable documents to verify address and additional documentation of name changes. The MDOR website has a full list of acceptable documents for verification.

Water damage

During a discussion of rainfall the previous night, Fagre told a story about collecting rain during a storm.

“I told you about the bucket in the yard that time the wind was blowing, didn’t I?” he asked Drewel. “The wind was blowing so hard that the bucket took off and lightning tried to strike it three times but couldn’t hit it.”

Fagre and Drewel also talked about the damage water can do to culvert pipes.

“I’ve seen it over the years,” Drewel said. “If that culvert has a little angle on it, enough to where the water goes out of it, it will last way longer than one that stays a little flat that has water standing a little bit. It will rust those out in 10 years.”

“I was looking around yesterday and ran into some old pipe from when I first got into office that was aluminized,” Fagre said. “We put them there right after I started in ‘93, and there is hardly any wear.”

“No water stands in it?” Drewel asked. Fagre said no.

“That makes a heck of a difference,” Drewel said. “Packing them with rock makes a big difference, too. I think it would be worth throwing a couple of loads of two-inch rock underneath them that way it weeps out. You’re always going to have a little water up against that pipe that’s not really wanting to go in it. If it doesn’t go in, eventually it’s going to seep underneath.”

In the courthouse, Stratman said he thought water leaking through a ceiling tile in the commission room was a result of an air handler on the floor above improperly draining. The air handler was actually leaking, and the spot on the ceiling likely occurred because of the issues with the leak.

Treasurer’s office

Brad Neier called Stratman during the meeting to let him know that he had removed the old bench in the courtroom and was burning it. Neier also installed a counter with protective glass for the treasurer’s office shortly before Angie Stricklan took over.

“This looks great over here in Angie’s office,” Stratman said. “We’re really pleased with it.”

Drewel joked that he needed to find a tray to go place a lunch order at the counter.

“Is that called a walk-up window or a drive-up window?” he asked. “I’m going to order a cheeseburger and fries.”

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