Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham made a triumphal presentation to the Osage County Commission of recovered road signs. He announced an arrest in the case. “The gentleman who is incarcerated is …
Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham made a triumphal presentation to the Osage County Commission of recovered road signs. He announced an arrest in the case. “The gentleman who is incarcerated is cooperating, so we hope to get some more,” said Bonham. “It’s a direct result of the UD article.” He enlarged on that comment by thanking a citizen. That individual read about the stolen signs in a recent issue of the Unterrified Democrat. Appalled by the cost to the county, the reader gathered some information and passed it on to the Sheriff’s Office. Bonham noted this intelligence is likely to lead to more arrests in the future.
“It’s a lot to do with the public being interactive,” said Bonham.
There have been several arrests in other cases as well. Except for the stolen signs, all perpetrators have been from outside of Osage County. “Those are a little harder to solve, except for the good interaction,” he added.
Bonham said he is pleased with the recently passed ordinance. It assesses a small fee to cases heard in the Osage County Courthouse from outside the county. He also spoke about efforts to collect past debts due to the Osage County Jail. Some of the money is starting to come in. Those collections, along with bills paid by Gasconade County, will exceed the Osage County Board of Prisoners budget. Because of the added traffic and jail population, expenses will be over budget but the extra revenue will more than make up for them. “We’re going to end up taking in more,” he reiterated.
However, Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin has received an opinion from the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) which challenges the new ordinance.
Its position is that the city of Owensville must pass an ordinance approving payment of a small fee per case for hearing of that city’s court cases in Osage County. Until that happens, it is recommended that Osage County wait to send any bills for such cases.
Griffin will inquire further before the ordinance is enforced. “So, stay tuned,” he said.
In personnel news, Bonham is now down two deputies. “We’re seeing the same problems as everybody else,” he said.
Osage County Western District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes asked about efforts by the state of Missouri to catch up on money owed to the counties for housing offenders who will be charged by the state’s Department of Justice. According to Bonham, those efforts are likely to begin with smaller debts. “They’re trying to take care of the smaller counties,” said Bonham, adding he thinks the idea is to reduce the number of debts owed, rather than the overall gross amount.
As Bonham recently predicted, the number of “no bond” arrests, made because of “failure to appear” charges, is spiking.
Judge Sonya Brandt issued 50 of those warrants on one day recently, the majority from Gasconade County. Bonham’s prediction, in response to a recent ruling by the Missouri State Supreme Court, was that arrested offenders who are released without posting bond will inevitably fail to appear in court to face charges. They’re able to commit more crimes with this leniency. So, when the courts are forced to deny bonds, they’ll have more work to do, which Bonham said is logical.
All the new vehicles purchased from the Sheriff’s Office 2021 budget are now delivered and in service.
Bonham is in full-swing planning for his office’s activity at the 2021 Osage County Fair. He ended with gratitude for the harmony between commissioners and county law enforcement. “It’s amazing what we can get done when we all work together,” he said.
ROAD AND BRIDGE
Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker announced that two of his dump trucks are back in service following repairs. However, Grader #08, stationed at Westphalia, is down with suspected injector trouble. “It seems like it’s going through a great amount of fuel,” he explained.
Plus, his foreman’s pickup truck is in for repair at Jim Butler Chevrolet. Kempker is now transferring Grader #03 to Meta. “We’ve got to get in that area,” he said. “There’s a lot of washouts, a lot of crazy rain.”
The recently purchased Kenworth road tractor, Truck #49, is in the shop with a suspected ECM issue. That, however, has tested good. So Kempker is taking it “one step at a time. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Kempker has received notice that his department’s radio license is due in June of 2022. It’s renewable every 10 years. Osage County 911/EMA Director Ron Hoffman has dealt with these renewals before in his role as fire chief. He volunteered to see if Rayfield Communications of Springfield will help the Road and Bridge Department the way they help the fire department. Rayfield handles the Linn Fire Protection District’s renewals, and Hoffman said the paperwork is very difficult for individuals without specialized experience.
“I’ll wait to hear from him,” Kempker said.
Kempker reached out to five different asphalt companies for bids. The county wants to work on Pioneer Trail, otherwise known as CR 600, Bank Road in Loose Creek, CR 615, and CR 420. The numbers he has received for a complete overlay are nowhere close to the Road and Bridge’s budget, so Kempker concentrated on chip-and-seal repair. Commissioners approved a bid by Bink’s Trucking and Excavating of Sullivan for $65,800. The company will use 3/8-inch trap rock to mix with the asphalt seal. It should be finished by late July or early August, depending on the weather.
Osage County Eastern District Commissioner John Trenshaw did some figuring, noting that if all the county’s asphalt roads were done at this pace, it would take more than 10 years. He would like to see a five-year plan, as that is how long chip-and-seal repairs are expected to last, at a minimum.
“We’ve got to get a lot more pencils sharpened,” he concluded. “We’ll never catch up at this rate.”
Kempker is aware of the problem. He submitted this proposal and an increased budget last winter, just to get started.
Kempker also raised the question of spray painting lines on the Loose Creek Highway. That stretch was dropped on the county with the completion of the four-lane portion of Hwy. 50 from Jefferson City to Linn, bypassing Loose Creek. Since then, maintaining that chunk of asphalt has been a headache. He’s worried the lines as now painted are fading to a point of being unsafe.
The new advertising campaign for more operators has resulted in the distribution of four applications. None have yet been returned, and the department remains severely shorthanded. Heavy rains have produced predictable potholes on the county’s gravel roads. It will take longer than it should for the graders to get to them. “We will get to the washouts as soon as we can,” said Kempker, “but Mother Nature won’t give it up.”
Kliethermes also warned of coming retirements in the department. Many long-time employees hold onto county government jobs as a bridge to Medicare. More than one of Kempker’s operators will be eligible for that before long.
Trenshaw received a call from one of his constituents he was pleased to pass on. A resident on CR 251 is very pleased with the work done there, especially the crown. Trenshaw quoted the caller as saying the operator had “worked a miracle with not much gravel to work with.”
Trenshaw also asked about hiring private contractors to harvest and screen creek gravel. The county would be willing to purchase this product and add it to their material stockpiles.
”We’ve got to do something to help you out,” said Trenshaw, referring to Kempker’s staffing troubles.
Kliethermes and Kempker were receptive to the idea. Often, creek gravel adheres to roads better than commercially-quarried white rock. It’s faster, though, to use quarry rock than digging, screening, and spreading creek rock. Both have their cost-effective advantages but operator shortage forfeits a lot of creek gravel’s attractiveness.
Griffin has received another call from a resident on CR 605 about a trash truck compacting its load on a rainy day. This problem was addressed a few months ago but the driver is still compacting loads at the same spot. Griffin visited the site again and some litter and a lot of foul-smelling juice troubles nearby residents. He asked if he were going to have to talk to the truck’s company again.
“It’s who we’re going to have to call,” said Kliethermes.
Trenshaw added, and Griffin agreed, that the driver should look at what’s on the road after performing the maneuver.
“Then he should come back and clean it up,” said Trenshaw.
Linn Utilities Superintendent Larry Frederich delivered an estimate for asphalt on parking spaces around the courthouse. Piggybacking with the city, the county should be able to obtain a six-inch overlay for about $17,500.
“It should be good and strong,” said Frederich. “I’m not asking for a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ today.”
This figure is an engineer’s estimate and the actual cost will come later. However, commissioners were very receptive to the idea.
Kliethermes delivered a copy of the rough draft of an engineer’s estimate presented in May by John Mann, C.E., to Bartlett & West Engineers in Jefferson City. This was in preparation for a lawsuit filed by the county against Stutsman Trucking. The county wants to know how much judgment to seek for the removal of the wrecked Pentecostal Bridge from the Maries River, and also to prepare for its actual removal. It appears the county will have to do this instead of waiting for Stutsman’s lawyer to arrange for and to get it done.
Department employees performed service on Trucks #34 and #26; crews repaired culverts on CRs 435 and 310; crews removed trees on CRs 319, 321, and 631; brush mowers worked on CRs 401, 636, 637, 638, 741, 742, and Loose Creek Highway; and grader operators worked on CRs 211, 212, 274A, 275, 512, 522, 524, 711, 712, 716, 717, 718, 801, 805, and 823. Some washouts were targeted by graders, and a bridge rail was replaced on CR 413.
Osage County Health Department Administrator Kim Sallin reported six active cases of COVID-19 in the county. Two individuals are under the age of 20. There have been 1,733 total cases with 16 deaths. One alarming development is an increase in hospitalizations.
“[Intensive Care Units] ICU’s are filling back up,” said Sallin. “I have not heard in our area of one vaccinated person being admitted.”
She is still campaigning for Osage County citizens, young and old, to get vaccinated. As of last week, 38% of the county’s population which have received both shots, but only 3.5% of residents are under 18.
With the recent increase in hospitalizations, mainly due to the Delta variant, Missouri state employees are now being allowed to work from home again.
“They are implementing ‘vaccine required’ [for those wishing to report to their offices],” said Sallin.
The new mutation is proving to be 40% more transmissible outdoors.
Sallin has researched and prepared for a switchover to electronic health records. She narrowed her attention to two companies, CureMD Healthcare, and Patagonia Health. The cost comparison slanted heavily toward Patagonia, estimated at $17,400, as opposed to CureMD’s $35,000. However, Patagonia, in Sallin’s words, “has zero customer service.”
CureMD is better, in her judgment, and caters more to smaller counties. About 10 small counties in Missouri use CureMD. Besides, whatever the cost, it’s eligible for payment by a federal Adult Immunization Grant for the first 16 months. Commissioners approved the purchase of the CureMD program.
The final audit of Osage County’s 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds delivered $10,742 in interest and unspent money. Commissioners approved that amount to be turned over to the OCHD. Sallin had a pre-approval already on the books for the purchase of a vaccination freezer. It will be small enough to sit on top of the current refrigerator in the OCHD. It also will have a clear door, enabling inventory without opening it. The current storage system is too large to get in and out of it easily, and the door is opaque. Therefore, any access to vaccine stored there, even if it’s just to count it, requires a loss of cold air. The proposed unit will also allow staff to separate vaccines from specimen collections.
The OCHD continues to brainstorm promotions to increase COVID-19 vaccination totals in the county. Ideas include handouts, a pool party, shaved ice, and prizes from Frontline Printing By 2VETS of Linn. She’s concentrating on county fair events and back-to-school activities.
Sallin asked commissioners to consider her “Proposal to Continue Osage County Health Department’s Temporary Employee Staff.” The program in place has added several temporary workers, especially vaccinators, under Sallin’s supervision to help combat the COVID crisis locally. As she works to spread the vaccine, required staffing exceeds her normal manpower.
“If the cases rise again, I don’t have the staff to be able to work all those cases,” she added.
Should the vaccine suddenly catch on, reaching an acceptable number of county citizens, and the COVID cases do not increase, “they only work when they’re asked to work,” Sallin said.
What she’s requesting is covered under her 2021 budget, and essential worker compensation should be available with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding already approved to the county. Commissioners readily approved her request.
Trenshaw asked Sallin to add a line about social distancing to the OCHD’s posters at the county building entrances which recommend wearing masks. He admits to some skepticism about the absolute efficacy of masks and how they stop the virus. He has no problem with the mask recommendation; however, “I’m an absolute believer in social distancing,” he said. “That’s the absolute best thing you can do is to stay away from sick people.”
“I think that’s a fantastic idea,” said Sallin.
Data is arriving about the endurance of vaccination and antibodies from COVID infection. Sallin was one of the first in the county to be immunized and was recently tested when donating blood. The antibodies from her vaccination are still present, according to that test. “I think that’s good news and very interesting,” she said.
While that’s encouraging, she cautioned, “There’s going to be people who just aren’t going to hold onto the COVID vaccine.”
She concluded her report with news of a complaint about a landowner’s lagoon and its failure. It’s a rental property, and the renters are now joining neighbors in raising an alarm. Many private septic inspections, as well as food service inspections, are ongoing. “They are unannounced,” Sallin asserted.
Hoffman informed commissioners of his department’s plans for the fair, and various drills.
He’s also considering a change for the protocol for long driveways off rural county roads. Currently, they are named with the county providing a sign, even though these are not county roads. Unfortunately, many of these private lanes are frequent targets for sign thieves.
“Let’s not name the road,” suggested Hoffman. “Let’s give them an address.”
He doubts address signs would be as much of a target for sign thieves.
Hoffman continues to monitor problems with the equipment and service provided by Solacom Technologies, Inc., of Downers Grove, Ill. Osage County has recently signed a contract with the company, so no action is imminent. However, Hoffman noted that most surrounding counties have gone to Intrado VIPER® 911 Call Handling, replacing Solacom. Cole County is now set to make that switch. Should Osage County switch, it would be able to transfer calls, directed to Osage County because of phone trunk traffic, straight to the appropriate 911 center, instead of taking information and making a separate call. This convenience and perceived customer service superiority have Hoffman’s attention. “Everybody else has already dumped [Solacom],” he said.
Commissioners signed outgoing checks.
Osage County Front Desk Clerk Brooke Dudenhoeffer has contacted Fence Pro, LLC, of New Bloomfield, the fence-builder that won the bid to replace fencing around the antenna east of the courthouse. They planned to begin work Tuesday, July 6.
The Osage County Board of Equalization (BOE) is scheduled to convene in the Commissioners Room of the Osage County Administration Building (Annex) at 9 a.m. Monday, July 19.
The Meramec Regional Planning Commission 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.