Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker announced the loss of another employee, leaving the county for better pay elsewhere. Recent additions to his crew had him enjoying close to full …
Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker announced the loss of another employee, leaving the county for better pay elsewhere. Recent additions to his crew had him enjoying close to full staffing for a few days but not all training and testing of the new hires are done yet. Therefore, a full staff working has not occurred for a long time.
The salvage of the Pentecostal Bridge is underway. The site already looks much different than it has for the last year. The west approach has been removed and the ground groomed for the imminent placement of a crane.
Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin asked Kempker to make contact with a property owner on CR 435. Griffin and neighbors are interested in the intersection of a driveway and the road. They believe it would benefit from the installation of a culvert. So far, the citizen has resisted. However, the erosion caused by rain has the attention of other residents on the road who have to drive by.
"They could help out their neighbors," said Griffin.
Osage County Western District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes brought up problems on CR 608. It hasn't been graded for a while and he was curious if Kempker's short-staffed grader rotation plan might be hindering it. Kempker acknowledged the consequences. He is still trying to cross-train every employee to run the graders and all other equipment. Nevertheless, as long as the rotation is in place, there will always be one grader idle. Kempker believes this will continue indefinitely but he's unsure how he would be able to get through a harsh winter with the policy. "It's hard to keep up," he admitted.
Department employees hauled rock on CRs 602, 610, and 801; crewmembers performed Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) mandated bridge repairs on CRs 610, 711, 726, and 741; workers installed a culvert under the west entrance to the new county parking area northeast of the Osage County Administration Building (Annex); crews worked to stabilize a creek bank adjacent to CR 423; mowers worked on CRs 506, 507, 516, 635, and 724; and graders worked on CRs 303, 305, and 609.
Osage County Health Department (OCHD) Administrator Kim Sallin reported 2,135 total COVID-19 cases with 53 active, including two county citizens in their 40's who are hospitalized. This is much younger than the typical citizen so sick that hospitalization is required. One is seriously ill enough to require a ventilator. One other citizen, a 51-year old, has passed away. This was an unvaccinated male. Sallin's staff is now tracking 119 cases in children under 12, with eight new since her last report. These children are still ineligible for vaccination. There have been 49 breakthrough cases.
Sallin remains frustrated with home-tested cases not being reported in a timely fashion. When quarantines are recommended there, citizens claim they've already had the disease. However, "we can't take tests from a month ago," explained Sallin. "That's not what parents want to hear."
OCHD has scheduled flu vaccine clinics for each school in Osage County. The flu vaccine is available to both staff and students.
Sallin is looking forward to offering CPR and first aid classes soon. She and OCHD Nurse Kandiss Hoffman are certified instructors. She wants to utilize the Osage Ambulance District's (OAD's) classroom. "We're working with Josh (Krull, OAD Chief) to plan this," she said.
Sallin has located a supply of hand sanitizer stands available for purchase. They are "no-touch" models and would be deployed in all county buildings and schools. "The schools were really excited," Sallin reported.
She gauged the demand before formulating a proposal to commissioners.
"I think it's a good idea," said Griffin. The units are now in stock and could be delivered within two to three days. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds would pay for them. Sallin estimated 30 of them would be deployed immediately. She was urged by commissioners to order 40, anticipating demand would grow.
The OCHD continues to receive inquiries about COVID vaccine booster shots. Many citizens know an individual who has received one and are curious when they can get theirs. Sallin reiterated there is no authorization for public health officials to give them. Private physicians have prescribed them to their highly immunodeficient patients. She expects some guidance in the coming days but dreads the event.
Original categories of priority for the original vaccinations will likely apply. This will require a great deal of documentation and paperwork. The dates and branding of the original vaccine will have to be certified. An original vaccination of one brand cannot be boosted by another. "It's going to be a mess," she said. "Some people have lost their vaccination cards."
Looking toward that possibility, she said, "If you've lost your vaccination card, now's the time to contact us."
Sallin has interviewed candidates for part-time openings for nurses in the OCHD. She has more scheduled and she continues to receive resumes.
"I'd like to make my decision by next Friday (Sept. 17)," she said.
Originally planning on hiring two, she would now like to take on three. She also anticipates needing a full-time nurse within a year but she's waiting to make sure. The COVID crisis and its ebbs and flows create a fluid situation.
"I think you're going to be smoked when they authorize that third shot," said Osage County Eastern District Commissioner John Trenshaw, encouraging her thinking. "The ARPA money's available for that."
Sallin announced the OCHD conversion to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) was scheduled to go live Thursday, Sept. 9. She expected some bugs to work out, but, "Once we get things down, it'll make things go so much smoother," she said.
Sallin displayed the Public Health Emergency Preparedness contract between the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the OCHD. This awards her department $30,100 for demonstrating the ability to help in case of emergency. Funds are earmarked for classes, training, and other ways to prepare her staff for trouble.
Fatima R-3 Superintendent Chuck Woody has officially invited Sallin to attend and testify before a meeting of the Fatima School Board. She's aware of the probable content of the planned discussion. She's skeptical of being able to accomplish much by accepting the invitation. Westphalia school parents have been particularly frustrated by quarantine policies. They've mounted the strongest and most frequent challenges to the department’s school guidance.
One item which has garnered a lot of attention is the policies in place at the neighboring Blair Oaks schools. Sallin is aware of the contrast and remains satisfied with her published guidelines. Many Fatima parents would prefer to work with the procedures in place at Blair Oaks but Sallin said, “In my mind, that's not the right thing to do. I’m not going to be changing my recommendations."
Circumstances affecting her view include Fatima's ability to test children at school. Blair Oaks and other schools are not equipped or willing to do that so the opportunity to act more quickly remains attractive to Sallin. Also, Blair Oaks is in Cole County, where the health department is not able to deal as directly with schools as the OCHD. "There are too many schools in Cole County for CCHD to have their hands on," said Sallin, who prefers the ability to act quickly in a school population. Other counties and their schools can't.
She also feels a personal responsibility to parents of infected and exposed students.
"I'm not calling the parents to give them the school's recommendations," she clarified. "I'm calling to give them my recommendations."
Referring to the invitation to attend the board meeting, "I wouldn't advise you to just go there," said Kliethermes.
"I don't think you need to go and stand in front of seven angry people," agreed Trenshaw.
He suggested asking citizens to submit their questions in writing. He also advised making copies of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines available. All three commissioners committed themselves to go to the meeting with her if she chose to go.
However, commissioners expressed an even greater commitment to making sure Fatima R-3 School Board members and concerned parents got to have their say. Woody was contacted and scheduled to come to the Osage County Commission meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. There, he and others would be able to question commissioners and Sallin together. "We'll ... meet with them," said Griffin. "We're not here to dictate."
Emphasizing that OCHD issues no mandates with any power of enforcement, Trenshaw added, "It's up to them to decide what they want."
Nevertheless, the OCHD guidelines are taken seriously and there's a great deal of disagreement in western Osage County.
Griffin then quoted one of his old pastors, the late Father Richard Hunkins. "Sorry about that, but I didn't write the book," is how Hunkins would explain a Bible passage that was likely to meet with congregants' disagreement.
"We will stand behind you all the way," Kliethermes reassured her.
"I'm not just trying to be a jerk," said Sallin. "It's literally a law."
She cited Missouri Revised Statute 167.191, which states: "It is unlawful for any child to attend any of the public schools of this state while afflicted with any contagious or infectious disease, or while liable to transmit such disease after having been exposed to it. For the purpose of determining the diseased condition, or the liability of transmitting the disease, the teacher or board of directors may require any child to be examined by a physician, and exclude the child from school so long as there is any liability of such disease being transmitted by the pupil. If the parent or guardian refuses to have an examination made by a physician at the request of the teacher or board of directors, the teacher or board of directors may exclude the child from school. Any parent or guardian who persists in sending a child to school, after having been examined as provided by this section, and found to be afflicted with any contagious or infectious disease, or liable to transmit the disease, or refuses to have the child examined as herein provided, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not less than five nor more than one hundred dollars."
Consultation with Osage County Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Grellner and other legal opinions yielded the conclusion this statute is not one to be enforced by any power other than parents.
The building inspection on the proposed structure for the OCHD has been completed. Commissioners looked over the results with Trenshaw saying, "I don't think there are any real surprises."
The building is the former Popcorn Buddha at the corner of Hwy. 89 South and Hwy. 50. It was expected to need some parking lot repair and work on the roof-mounted air conditioning unit.
The survey is not yet completed but Trenshaw, a former owner of the property, doubts any encroachments will appear. Commissioners are also waiting for an appraisal.
Osage County 911/EMA Director Ron Hoffman brought paperwork for the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) quarterly award. Commissioners approved and signed it, bringing $52,500 to the county. The EMPG is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and facilitated through the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
Hoffman told commissioners he is trying to recruit Carla Butler to be a member of the Osage County 911 Advisory Committee. She might replace Brian Opoka, who has resigned as the administrator of Maries Osage Ambulance District and moved to Kansas City, pursuing further education.
The glut of non-emergency calls flooding the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) phones has subsided. Hoffman believes the relief is due to how well his call-takers handled the problem. Each caller was politely told where the call should go. After a while, people were calling the right numbers instead of the wrong one.
"We informed the public," said Hoffman.
The Osage County tax sale took place Monday, Aug. 23. Three properties were auctioned, with two of them producing surplus over and above taxes due. A total of $54,412.06 went to the county treasury; however, the money can't be spent for a while. Previous owners of the properties are entitled to these funds under certain conditions. They have three years to meet the requirements. Commissioners approved acceptance of the money.
Osage County is the defendant in a lawsuit by a citizen injured in a fall at the front door of the Osage County Courthouse. She said she tripped over a doorstop. Griffin invited commissioners to go with him to view the structure after the meeting.
Griffin expressed interest in having the Linn branch of the Missouri River Regional Library system remain open later into the evening. The building has a nice meeting room, and he would like organizations in the area to have access to it. Currently, the commissioners' room is often booked for evening meetings. Griffin believes several of those would be better off using the library meeting room. Commissioners believe more staff may be needed to make the room available after hours.
Griffin also expressed concern about the upcoming resignation effective date of Osage County Assessor Jerry Baker. The Missouri state government is aware of it. Griffin believes a choice should be forthcoming before the end of September.
Commission reviewed these expenditures through Aug. 31, listed by department: 911 ($423,907.44), Assessor ($140,319.76), EMA ($90,600.62), Road & Bridge ($1,044,423.58), Building & Grounds ($40,374.65), Circuit Clerk ($6,173.14), Collector ($61,817.41), Coroner ($13,367.73), County Clerk ($72,331.62), Commission ($75,545.31), Elections ($12,367.74), Fringe Benefits ($172,242.97), Jail ($163,638.40), Juvenile Officer ($15,058.57), Prosecuting Attorney ($82,893.50), Public Administrator ($28,937.05), OCHD ($232,327.46), Recorder ($31,819.08), Sheriff ($596,157.66), Other ($5,058), Professional Organizations ($27,944.40), Surveyor ($7,083.60), Treasurer ($30,655.67), and Transfers ($6,600); for a grand total of $1,682,393.96. There were no expenditures from the emergency fund, leaving a balance of $68,370.
The August jail report showed 71 inmates, including 59 males and 12 females, with 50 released. The daily average population was 21.6 with an average stay of 9.5 days. The cumulative totals for 2021 are 557 inmates, including 415 males and 142 females, with 517 released. The average population is 16.8 with an average stay of 6.3 days.
All Osage County offices will close Monday, Oct. 11, in observation of Columbus Day.
An expired drugs and electronics recycling collection is scheduled at the Osage County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Oct. 16.
The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) annual dinner is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 21, at State Technical College. The 2020 dinner was canceled, so there will be two years worth of awards given. Local government and other community leaders will be invited.