Maries County setting up mass notification system

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 6/28/23

VIENNA — Maries County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Scott John met June 22 with county commissions to discuss setting up a mass notification system for residents.

Last year, Maries County …

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Maries County setting up mass notification system


VIENNA — Maries County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Scott John met June 22 with county commissions to discuss setting up a mass notification system for residents.

Last year, Maries County received a grant that provided $5,000 for a mass notification system. The quotes John received from companies that provide mass notification systems often doubled the $5,000 from the grant. He planned to return the funds and try to get a larger grant this year until a volunteer with the Maries County Sheriff’s Office Posse with emergency management experience did more research and found the company OnSolve and its service CodeRED.

“We’ve done some demos with (CodeRED) already to see how it works, and it’s exactly what we’re looking for,” John said.

Many quotes John received charged the county based on the overall population. OnSolve charges for CodeRED based on the number of people subscribed to the service. The quote for 5,000 subscribers came in just under the $5,000 the grant provided.

Once active, Maries County residents will have the option to opt-in for free to receive notifications from CodeRED through text message, voicemail or email. The county will be able to send out notifications relevant to all subscribed residents. It will also have the option to create geographic boundaries and only send select notifications to subscribers in the boundary. For example, if the county closed a bridge for construction, it could notify subscribers who live within a mile of the bridge. Other notifications could include severe weather warnings or announcements about deadlines for things such as registering to vote.

The county hopes to have its CodeRED system operating by the end of July.

John also presented an idea to reallocate money the commission had given the sheriff’s office from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the county received. The commission had set aside about $18,000 for mobile identification scanners for sheriff’s office vehicles and about $3,000 for individual first-aid kits for SWAT gear.

The mobile identification scanners would allow deputies to scan the thumbprints of people at traffic stops who did not present identification. The sheriff’s office had waited to buy them until the mobile data terminals (MDT) in the vehicles were up to date. Because of the delay in making the purchase, the price has increased and the waitlist to receive the equipment is more than six months.

“It would be nice to have them,” John said. “It’s not a must-have. With the difficulties we’ve been having with the MDTs, putting one more technological item in the car may not be the best idea right now. We may want to test what we have for a year or two and then think about maybe getting a couple of these.”

When the sheriff’s office ordered trauma kits for the vehicles, it was able to buy more than it had originally anticipated. John said he thinks the office has enough supplies left over to put together individual first aid kits.

John proposed that the commission approve a reallocation of the $21,000 to buy new radios for the Vienna Fire Protection District (VFPD) to access the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN) used by emergency service entities. The money would cover all but about $900 VFPD needs for the radios.

“Working out in the field with EMS and Fire, interoperability and being able to communicate with each other and being able to have reliable radio communication is vital,” John said. “I think them having their radios is more important than me having thumbprint scanners in my car.”

“I think it’ll be good to work together like that,” Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said.

He also asked John if he was certain the county’s insurance will cover posse members because many people have asked about it.

John said that the posse is covered under the county’s liability insurance.

Opioid Programs

The county received another payment from Missouri’s settlement with opioid distributors. The latest payment was $4,787.69 from Janssen. Counties have restrictions on how they may spend the money from the settlements. Many of the payments require counties to spend at least 85 percent of the funds on programs that educate the public or help reduce the damages of opioid abuse.

During the June 22 meeting, John said the county had about $19,000 set aside in the 85 percent pool. His idea for the funds was to spend some on education and some on rehabilitation.

For education, he wanted to purchase a pop-up tent that the sheriff’s office could take to events such as fairs to set up and distribute informational material about drug abuse and its prevention of it. He estimated those materials could cost between $4,000 and $5,000 each year, excluding the one-time expense for the tent.

John said with the remaining money he would like to pay for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people with opioid addictions who enter the jail. MAT programs through health clinics help people overcome opioid dependencies through prescriptions and counseling.

“We’ll pay for the medication and the doctor’s appointment while they’re in our jail,” John said. “Once they leave our jail, they have a prescription, they have a doctor to follow up with. We’ve set them on the path to recovery. It’s up to them to stay on the path. Even if one out of every 20 stays on the path, it’s a success.”

He said he has also been looking into establishing a drug court in Maries County, which would provide people abusing drugs to divert from jail and have an opportunity to rehabilitate in an “extremely regimented” program. The drug court would closely monitor a person’s activity and hold them accountable to qualifications such as meeting curfews, attending counseling meetings and passing drug screenings. After a set amount of time, usually 12 to 18 months, anyone who maintains good standing with the drug court will graduate and have their charges dropped.

“I’ve been trying for three years to get one of these up and running, but it’s so labor-intensive to put one together,” John said.

Senate Bill 190, Highway 63 concerns

Maries County resident Connie Schmiedeskamp visited the June 22 meeting to express her disappointment with the commissioners for their opposition to Senate Bill 190, which the General Assembly passed before the conclusion of its session in May.

The bill, which awaits Gov. Mike Parson’s signature, would 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.

At a meeting in May, the commissioners agreed they did not support the bill. Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman left a voicemail with Parson’s office.

Schmiedeskamp said she also wished the commissioners had made a statement saying they wanted Highway 63 to be a state priority over the expansion of Interstate 70.

“I know you guys saying you don’t support I-70 being widened to four lanes isn’t going to stop it, but everybody that says they don’t support it is just one more person saying we don’t want this to happen until Highway 63 gets fixed,” she said.

Stratman, who is on the Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee, said that the current plan for work on Highway 63 begins with construction in Osage County in 2027. The stretch through Vienna will follow as the project’s second phase.

Road Stabilizer

Two representatives from the Team Laboratory Chemical Corporation, Ryan Rowden and Steve Neppl, visited the June 22 meeting to talk to the commissioners about the company’s road stabilizer Base One. Thirteen Missouri counties use the product.

The stabilizer is water-soluble, so applying it would require a water truck, a roller and a grader. Neppl, who previously worked as an assistant county engineer in Minnesota, said counties that had used the product had gone from grading troublesome roads about 10 to 12 times per year to only about three to four times per year. Some roads could last five or six years before requiring more gravel.

Base One is sold in totes that cover about one mile of a 24-foot wide road. The county would pay about $7,500 per tote after shipping.

Stratman and Fagre said they did not want to commit to buying the product without Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel, who was unable to attend the meeting. Fagre said he thought it might be worth it to invest in some to apply to steep hills or other smaller stretches of road that need a lot of grading.

Other Business

Stratman asked that people building campfires and lighting fireworks to celebrate Independence Day please use caution because the ground is so dry.

Fagre suggested that the commissioners have the courthouse elevator examined while there are extra funds set aside from the ARPA for maintenance and repair of the courthouse. The elevator has not had any problems, but after the courthouse generator created unexpected expenses due to the unavailability of parts, Fagre said he did not want something similar to happen to the elevator, which is about 26 years old.

Stratman called Schindler Elevator Corporation. They told him that the company was last at the courthouse in March for a state inspection. The company planned to send someone to look at the elevator again and if necessary recommend upgrades to the equipment.

New plat maps are available at the Maries County Soil and Water Conservation District office in Vienna.