Sheriff’s office engaged with back to school

By H.B. Dodds, Staff Writer
Posted 9/14/22

Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham briefed the Osage County Commission on his staff’s work with a new school year starting. He and his deputies keep an especially sharp eye out for events related …

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Sheriff’s office engaged with back to school

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Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham briefed the Osage County Commission on his staff’s work with a new school year starting. He and his deputies keep an especially sharp eye out for events related to the return of students at State Tech. With enrollment up again, “We’ve definitely noticed the increase,” said Bonham. 

In recent years, 2022 has been the toughest so far. The first days of school have revealed a terrific, and growing, traffic problem on US 50 in front of State Tech. Entrance onto US 50 from MO 89 South and Rt. CC can be almost impossible. That goes as well for many private entrances in the area. Generally, this tends to even out by the second week of school. Bonham confirmed that’s the case again this year. Once new students know their schedules, they customize their arrival times. They no longer show up en masse when the school doors open. Bonham’s satisfied the worst is now past. 

“It went as well as possible,” he said. They “kinda figured it out.” 

That’s not to say he and others don’t want traffic engineering to alleviate the situation.

Bonham and the deputies are going out of their way to meet and visit with as many students as possible. Establishing personal relationships with citizens remains part of his proactive policing philosophy. 

An increase in population with school’s fall startup cannot happen without consequences. Aside from the traffic on US 50, Bonham is watching for an increase in the number of missing road signs. This kind of vandalism remains a trademark of the age group. 

CR 420 usually loses its signs about this time, but, to note an exception, “420 has stayed up the longest I’ve ever seen it stay up,” said Bonham. “It usually lasts a week.” 

He speculates it has to do with Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Director Ron Hoffman’s new strategy of mounting the county road signs. CR 420 was one of the first to receive a vertically mounted sign. It has individual digits rather than the traditional horizontal plate. 

Also, in conjunction with back-to-school activity, Bonham is working on “Operation No Sale,” which encourages businesses to concentrate on age restrictions when selling tobacco and alcohol. “That’ll be coming up before too long,” he said. 

Bonham is concerned about rising costs at the Osage County Jail and knows commissioners are also aware of the problem. He attempted in his briefing to reassure them that he’s watching the situation and there are mitigating factors. The sharp increase in the jail population joins the recent spike in inflation. It all puts upward pressure on spending. Food and utilities are draining dollars, especially the Osage County Courthouse water bill. However, Bonham insists there is also an increase in income, backfilling the expenditures.

“We have more people,” he explained, “and we got a check from [Gasconade County] for $8,400 to $8,500.” Osage County houses prisoners from neighboring counties and charges money to do that. Watching the balance carefully, Bonham believes those fees more than offset the expenses. 

Anticipating more inflation yet, “We are going to adjust our rates at the first of the year,” he added. “It’s going to be based on what our costs are.”

The jail now has an average population of 20 prisoners. “That’s a substantial increase,” said Bonham. “The costs for other jails are going up.” 

Therefore, Bonham feels justified in raising the Osage County rates. He insists the increased income continues to cover the increased expenses. 

The water bill has shot up in startling fashion; however, the courthouse utilities line item in the 2022 budget remains under control. Through August, the county has spent 66% of the dollars allocated.

Recruiting and retention are holding Bonham’s attention for years. He now has another strategy in play which he feels may pay off in the long run. The county now has a cadet, a local resident, in the Law Enforcement Training Institute, Columbia, who is under contract to serve here for three years after graduation. If the candidate fails the training or is fired before those three years are up, he will be liable for the tuition. Otherwise, the county will pay for it. 

“We feel this is going to be the best advantage for us,” said Bonham. “If we hire people from here, they’re more likely to want to stay. We’re trying.” 

It’s become challenging to recruit deputies from out of town. When that effort is successful, it proves difficult to keep them. They continue to be recruited from other jurisdictions. 

“You’ve got to try something,” agreed Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin.

OCHD

Even as stray COVID cases continue to come in, the Osage County Health Department enjoys a position of readiness. They now have a surplus of vaccines available, and “we still have plenty of our free COVID tests,” said OCHD Administrator Kim Sallin. 

“Bivalent” formulations of both Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines have gained some preliminary nods from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but “it’s not fully approved yet,” said Sallin. “No one can get it yet.” 

These preparations are designed to be single-shot boosters and should work for patients with the initial vaccinations already administered. There’s a great deal of interest in them, but it will be a while before they’re available in Osage County. 

Trying to fill the upcoming opening for the OCHD billing position, Sallin has two resumes. “I’m pleasantly surprised by that,” she said of the part-time position.

Sallin is convinced a qualified candidate will demand higher pay. Both applications she has received come from individuals retiring from full-time careers. “So they’ll be extremely experienced,” Sallin explained.

“That’s something we can discuss with you,” said Griffin. “You’ve brought up a good point.”

Sallin is working on language for a new food-service county ordinance. She documented the need for such legislation earlier this year. She then committed to having something that commissioners could operate in 2023. 

“I promise it’s been on my list of things to do,” she said. Currently, she’s studying similar ordinances in place in nearby counties. The document will provide for the inspection of restaurants and food trucks. 

Sallin is also writing a grant application for a security system at the new OCHD building. 

MISCELLANEOUS

Hoffman told commissioners he’s pleasantly surprised to have four applications to fill EOC openings. He feels the candidates are promising, but “they always look promising,” he hedged. 

Commissioners approved paying bills from Aug. 23 through Sept. 7 totaling $165,893.21 as follows by department: 911/EMA ($15,261.22), Assessor ($915.85), Building & Grounds ($989.41), Circuit Clerk ($125.62), Commission ($112.50), Coroner ($127.75), County Clerk ($296.91), OCHD ($2,244.88), Miscellaneous ($80,378.76), Prosecuting Attorney ($30.50), Recorder ($327.95), Road & Bridge ($59,939.01), Sheriff-Jail ($11,107.05), and Treasurer ($35.80). 

Commissioners reviewed these expenditures through Aug. 31, listed by department: 911 ($477,566.68), Assessor ($153,043.82), EMA ($78,289.68), Road & Bridge ($848,954.60), Building & Grounds ($45,435.11), Circuit Clerk ($7,065.37), Collector ($83,789.03), Coroner ($14,972.64), County Clerk ($76,347.96), Commission ($68,094.48), Elections ($26,533.53), Fringe Benefits ($210,830.97), Jail ($211,208.55), Juvenile Officer ($22,794.37), Prosecuting Attorney ($87,259.58), Public Administrator ($29,132.64), OCHD ($325,396.89), Recorder ($34,366.40), Sheriff ($547,065.30), Other ($8,623.75), Professional Organizations ($32,873.40), Surveyor ($6,100), Treasurer ($30,081.40), and Transfers ($6,600); for a grand total of $1,874,571.37. There were no expenditures from the emergency fund, leaving a balance of $85,325.

An income report from the county clerk for August showed a grand total of $469.49, including liquor license ($112), auction ($53), notary ($30), plat books ($105), election ($10) and miscellaneous ($159.49).

Commissioners reviewed and approved employee time sheets. 

Tammy Snodgrass of Meramec Regional Planning Commission will conduct a Hazard Mitigation Plan Meeting in the commission chambers at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22.

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