Maries County Commission hears project updates

By Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 5/29/24

VIENNA — The Maries County Commission and Chief Deputy Scott John discussed the property the county bought earlier this year at the intersection of Highway 28 and Route Z during the May 20 …

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Maries County Commission hears project updates


VIENNA — The Maries County Commission and Chief Deputy Scott John discussed the property the county bought earlier this year at the intersection of Highway 28 and Route Z during the May 20 commission meeting. Approximately 3-acres, the area is scheduled to become a storage and training ground for the Maries County Sheriff’s Office.

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman asked how the project is coming along.

John said progress had been good aside from recent rain making it difficult to finish draining a large pit that had filled with water over the years. After draining the pit once, rain refilled it by about three-fourths. He said he was surprised that the pit contained no debris such as old furniture or mattresses.

The commissioners said they had some concerns about filling the pit after draining it. From what they had seen, it looked like the contractors were filling the hole with topsoil rather than something that would stabilize the ground.

“If you’re just pushing dirt into that hole, it’s never going to settle,” Stratman said. “That’s never going to be solid.”

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said he had concerns about pushing the topsoil into the pit when it could be sold to pay for some of the excavation costs.

“There are a lot of people looking at that,” he said. “A lot of people are talking about that.”

John said he saw the point the commission was making and he planned to talk to the contractor about taking a different approach to the pit.

Drewel asked about the driveway the county is going to build to access the property.

John said the driveway is marked and will enter the property from Route Z north of the pit.

Stratman asked about plans to fence the property.

John said he planned to have the property fenced after building berms to prevent the public from accessing the property.

Drewel asked if the sheriff’s office had the money to cover the development of the property.

John said the sheriff’s office budgeted more than $80,000 for the property this year. He hoped it would not need that much money. The money comes from a surplus from last year’s Citizens Safety fund.

Drewel asked if the state has any regulations on how to build a shooting range.

John said organizations such as the National Rifle Association have guidelines that someone building a shooting range may want to consider, but there are no inspection regulations set by the state. Larger counties usually have those restrictions though smaller counties like Maries County often do not have the regulations.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre asked how often deputies must have gun training.

John said deputies must do at least one daylight shooting exercise and one low-light shooting exercise per year though he did not believe that is enough practice to train muscle memory for high-stress situations. There are ways the sheriff’s office, once it installs the shooting range, could hold more training sessions while keeping ammunition use low. Firearm instructor training teaches drills that minimize ammunition use and instead focus on building muscle memory.

“It’s a very perishable skill, and it’s something you need to keep polished, especially in our line of work,” he said.

Stratman asked if there was a completion date for the project.

John said there was no date in mind. The sheriff’s office does not want to rush through the project because it wants to finish it in the most efficient way possible.

Stratman said the county had recently purchased the building across the street at the corner of Third and Coffey if the sheriff’s office wanted to use it for training before its demolition. Fagre warned John to be careful because the floor was soft in some spots.

“We don’t have anything scheduled for demo yet, but if we’d happen to run onto something, we’re probably going to go ahead and do it,” Stratman said. “It seems to me like it’s a hazard there and a liability.”

John suggested the county look into demolition grants to help take down the building.

United Way

County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said the county had received an email from the United Way of Central Missouri because Maries County does not have a local board to administer funding from the organization’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program in the county. The organization operates the program in four other counties in the area and wishes to add Maries County and others in mid-Missouri.

A board that would administer local United Way funding requires representation from at least one local government official. Other counties each have a county commissioner on the board. The board would participate in two meetings. First, the board meets to approve an application process. At a second meeting, applicants present information about their programs and the board selects which agencies receive funding.

Stratman suggested offering the seat on the board to any county officials who showed interest in it. If no one did, then he would take the spot.


Stratman said Tom Campbell Floor Covering and Construction had finished remodeling the women’s restroom on the main floor of the courthouse and it looked very nice. The remodeling of the men’s restroom on the floor is underway. Courthouse visitors will need to use the upstairs or basement restroom until it is completed.

During the May 23 meeting, Stratman called a technician about a suspected leak from an air handler on the third floor of the courthouse. The leak is causing some water damage near the courtroom.


The commission heard an update from MECO Engineering about the Maries Road 213 bridge project over Fly Creek during the May 23 meeting. The firm is working to obtain the right of way from surrounding landowners. It is still waiting to hear from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) about if the project will require a cultural resource survey.

MoDOT announced last week that Route C had reopened earlier than expected following a replacement of the bridge deck over Peavine Creek.

Prescribed Burns

Stratman shared information he had received about the Greater Maries Prescribed Burn Association (GMPBA). Formed earlier this year, the group works to “overcome recurring limitations in implementing prescribed fire: adequate knowledge, training, experience, equipment and people available to assist in a prescribed burn,” according to informational materials. The association covers a radius of approximately 40 miles surrounding Vienna. Membership requires an annual fee and participation in the Missouri Department of Conservation Landowner Burn Workshop or an equivalent course and a select number of other training activities or organizational burns.

More information about the GMPBA is available on the Greater Maries Prescribed Burn Association Facebook page.

Special Collection

The Ozark River Solid Waste Management District will host a special collection at Brewer Science in Rolla on June 8. The items the district will accept for free include battery or cord-operated appliances such as stoves, microwaves, washers, dryers, water heaters, space heaters, computer components and accessories, VCRs, DVD players, cable and satellite boxes, cellphones, cameras, hairdryers, garden equipment (emptied of oil and gas) and media storage devices. The district will accept televisions, computer monitors, printers, tires and similar items for varying fees. More information about the collection is available online at under the “Programs & Services” tab.

Driving Instructions

During the May 23 meeting, Rodgers shared more old papers she had found in family documents. One was a letter to her great-grandfather from his sister before his wedding day. The date was October 10, 1912.

Another item was a list of driving instructions her grandmother Sophia Durbin (1920-2012) had handwritten to remind herself how to operate a car on the rare occasion she needed to drive.

“My grandma never drove,” Rodgers said. “She might’ve driven to the mailbox a handful of times, maybe. They had a long driveway.”

The instructions are as follows:

Leave car in park. Start motor.

Put right foot on brake.

Put lever from P to R if have back up.

Or blue dot to drive forward.

Take right foot on pedal to go. Left foot always free.

Do take precaution of pedal brake. Very light. Or throw other party in windshield.

Always put in park on P.

Let it sit on stop. Sometimes you think still roll, but take foot off brake.