Commission approves CARES Act funding for Sheriff's Office
The Meramec Regional Planning Commission forwarded two Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding requests to the …
Osage County nears the end of CARES Act funding
Osage County commissioners discussed the end game for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money administered in the county. Barring a renewal, which some expect, the deadline for awarding funds is approaching. The commissioners voted to take the funding application down from the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) website by Friday, Nov. 20. Any agency or business which wishes to apply for funds must submit an application by then.
“It’s crunch time,” Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin observed. “We have a lot of money left.”
Counting all money committed or already spent, there is still about $660,000 available. To access it, the delivery or installation of products is not necessary. There must be, however, a paid receipt to document the proper use of awarded funds.
Stopping the use of the MRPC website would not necessarily stop the award of dollars remaining after Nov. 20. The fee, for instance, to be paid to an auditing firm would not need to pass MRPC scrutiny. The county’s use of MRPC expertise is a benefit, not a requirement. If funds remain, the commission can be expected to try and find a place for them.
Griffin has been in close contact with an auditing firm. The company is “99% sure,” according to Griffin, they will be able to do the required audit. Such an audit is required of the county’s CARES Act stewardship. Griffin is hoping to soon have an estimate of their fee.
The commission approved a $32,527.28 application from the city of Linn.
Osage County Health Department (OCHD) administrator Susan Long introduced Lincoln University nursing student Ashli Randall, who is in her final semester and will soon graduate as a Registered Nurse. She is completing 32 hours of field training with the OCHD.
Long said there are approximately 750 total COVID-19 cases in Osage County; and not all suspected cases have been tested yet. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) continues to help track adult cases where the OCHD has fallen behind by prioritizing student cases.
OCHD Nurse Kimberly Sallin said she thought the total caseload will probably top 800 before the end of last week. Her count was at 771, and she had a stack of cases yet to work. She noted six new cases were teachers at Fatima R-3, most in the elementary grades.
“Fatima was just going back to class,” commented Kliethermes.
The balance of cases at Westphalia has shifted from secondary to elementary school, so grades 7-12 were likely to return from a school closure at the expected time. Lower grades may not.
OCHD has hired another part-time employee to assist during the crisis. Sallin is concentrating on making sure the new hires are now trained better than they were weeks ago. The department now has a better feel for what kind of, and how much, training emergency staff requires. Total staff at the OCHD now numbers 14, with many being temporary for COVID-19 relief.
Long has recently endured some health problems of her own, as well as some in her close family. This has caused her to miss some days. “Kim Sallin, in my absence, has been doing a phenomenal job ...” she concluded. “I tell [people] to not get old, but all you guys are around my age anyway, so it’s too late.”
Long shared what she’s heard about the coming vaccine. It will consist of two injections, four weeks apart, and it may be available to high-priority individuals by the end of November. Storage of the medicine, though, promises to be a problem. Reports indicate it must be maintained at -50 degrees Fahrenheit. No refrigeration system in the county can do that at this time. If there’s a solution to that difficulty, the vaccine may be available to the public by spring, 2021. Given the importance of this issue and the uncertainty of a possible renewal of the CARES Act, “I don’t know [how to begin doing a] budget for ,” she lamented.
Flu shot clinics are now being scheduled for businesses around the county.
OCHD expects to order their new trailer which will haul the drive-through clinic tent. Long is working with Ron Hoffman to determine if one needs to be custom-ordered. There may be a suitable unit on a sales lot in the area.
“If they have one in stock, that’ll be a big help,” said Kliethermes.
A receipt for the purchase must be in hand before the Dec. 31 deadline. Qualifying for CARES Act coverage could be difficult if ordering one out of stock. Hoffman explained it will be a utility box-trailer, and there are several to choose from already. It’s just a matter of insuring one will match the tent to be hauled and the capabilities of the OCHD’s vehicle to pull it.
Osage County 911/EMA Director Andrea Rice briefed the commission again on her department’s budget and 2020 expenditures. “I like to justify overspending when it happens,” she said.
Most of the department’s spending which runs ahead of the budget is due to COVID-19 bills. She addressed several line items that have spent well more than 80% of the annual allocation. She assured the commission CARES Act funding will reimburse the overspending.
One specific example she led with was salaries. Due to the COVID crisis, the 911 Call Center has absorbed 2,317 hours of overtime so far this year. That expense is eligible for CARES Act relief, and Rice has applied for it. “We didn’t expect all of the sick time and other COVID-related expenses this year,” she explained.
Private drive and county road signs, along with their hardware, will go over budget this year. Theft and vandalism of the signs are way up. “The problem is the fines,” explained Rice. “If you are caught and prosecuted, the fine is very little.”
To address the problem, the commission intends to consult with Osage County Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Grellner. “They are stolen all the time,” Rice added.
Other problems include several addresses that residents still claim. They are not, though, in sync with the Emergency Management Agency (EMA). Referring to Osage County only, “We found out during the election [there are some illegitimate addresses],” asserted Griffin. He went on to talk about the frequency with which the stolen signs are found just lying around. He has picked some out of ditches. Others notice them in the background of social media posts and videos. People broadcast from their bedrooms, basements, and garages, and the signs are visible. Griffin urges the public to call the county non-emergency number when these signs are seen. “We don’t sell signs for people to post in their ‘man caves,’” Griffin concluded.
Rice was permitted to place another order. The commission feels accurate signage is only becoming more important to the EMA’s mission.
Rice had the commission sign electronic equipment service agreements.
She also submitted two personnel transaction forms. One was for her resignation, effective in January. The other is to officially add ProQA evaluation specialist Scott Patterson to the 911 call center staff. Patterson has been conducting call-taker and dispatcher evaluations. So far, they are part of the original purchase agreement. However, that circumstance is about to time out; and the Osage County 911 Advisory Committee wants him to continue for a while. All agree, his work has been very effective, improving all call-takers, new, and experienced. Dispatchers and call-takers seem more comfortable getting criticism from a non-supervisory source. They know Patterson is not “out to get them.” Plus, Rice and Supervisor Travis Holtmeyer appreciate not having to do that work at this busy time.
The agency management transition from Rice to Hoffman is starting. To begin with, Hoffman will do director’s work with Rice looking over his shoulder. Hoffman is already studying many of the issues he will face. “I’ve been forcing him to go to meetings with me,” she said, tongue in cheek. “There’s a lot of things we need to do before the end of the year.”
Hoffman presented a list of ideas he expects to bring before the commission in the next few months. Disinfectant fogs, a “teller” window at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) entrance, a wall-mounted body temperature thermometer to screen employees as they report for duty, a storm siren, area lighting, a public address system, and portable antennae, all mounted on the Sheriff’s Office trailer, individual programming for the EOC electronic door lock, cabinets for individual use in the EOC break room, a mounted screen to display security camera images and Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) signals are issues for which Hoffman intends to prepare proposals. He and Rice intend to include funds for some of these things in the 2021 budget pitch.
BUILDING AND GROUNDS
Hot water was an issue at the Osage County Jail. A visit from plumber John Wegman diagnosed a failed circulator pump. The hot-water heater in question was functioning well. Wegman was able to find an exact replica of the pump and installed it. “They had to replace it and put a new check-valve in it,” said Osage County Building and Grounds Janitorial and Maintenance Worker John Kennedy. “It feels like it’s working now. They’ve got hot water all the way back to the kitchen.”
“How long had that pump been in there?” asked Kliethermes.
Kennedy estimated less than three years.
“So there’s no warranty on it,” Kliethermes concluded.
The bad news is it was too old to still be under warranty. The good news is it was new enough it is still being manufactured. Exact replacement meant there was no alteration necessary to the plumbing around it. Any other replacement would have involved more cost in parts and labor.
“They were lucky to find they could find the same pump,” observed Griffin.
Kliethermes announced the request by Porter, Berendzen & Associates, architect, and Verslues Construction, the general contractor working on the Osage County Courthouse renovation, for a meeting Monday, Nov. 16. Both wanted to meet with the commissioners as balusters for the facade arrived. They were anxious to receive specific directions for the location of the new pieces. They also wanted to discuss tuck-pointing for the facade’s brick.
Verslues has submitted a bill for $9,595 on the project. The commissioners verified there is $25,000 available in the line item. They had planned well for building and grounds money dedicated to the project.
ROAD AND BRIDGE
Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker announced new Trailer #24 has arrived. It should be in service after a trip to Columbia. MHC Kenworth was scheduled to install tractor specific switches and hookup terminals. “That will happen here shortly,” said Kempker.
Kempker has considered last week’s question from Osage County Second District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes about the snowfall cutoff point between snowplow blading and road grading. Kempker feels it takes three inches of snow on a gravel road before plow trucks should be used. He would, however, send the trucks to blade hills on those roads as long as there’s an inch-and-a-half. “That’s my opinion,” said Kempker.
He added he would definitely spread salt and cinders in case of ice. As always, school bus routes on school days are the first to be treated and plowed, if necessary.
“I think that’s a good policy,” said Griffin.
“Each event seems to be a little different,” said Kempker.
His strategy for gravel roads is to wait, if possible until the event is almost over. Backtracking to re-plow gravel is very inefficient. For blacktop county roads, though, Kliethermes and Kempker agree that’s a completely different situation. They need to be bladed repeatedly and kept as clean as possible. Traction on smooth surfaces is a much more difficult commodity to attain than on gravel. “They have 50-60 mile per hour traffic there,” Kempker observed.
Road and Bridge employees continue to prepare the county’s plow trucks for winter weather.
Commissioners noted the recently announced campaign by the city of Westphalia to de-annex some property. It’s the parcel which, when annexed, moved a portion of CR 511 into the city limits. Maintenance of that stretch of road has been a bone of contention in recent years. The commission noted a recent handshake between them and a delegation headed by city Attorney David Bandre was never confirmed. It never made it into writing with signatures despite several attempts to follow up and get the deal done. Kempker said his crew will work on it until deannexation results are certified. He was confirmed in doing so. “We’ll keep track of it,” he said.
The department hauled rock on CRs 231 and 625; crews replaced a culvert on CR 625; and grader operators worked on CRs 231, 263, 301, 302, 312, 317, 319, 401, 412, 415, 435, 436, 503, 506, 507, 508, 511, 551, 602, 621, 623, 624, 625, 706, 709, 711, 712, 713, 714, 716, 717, 718, 723, 724, 800, 800A, 800B, 821, and 822.
Commissioner-elect John Trenshaw recently attended a meeting of the Region H Mid Missouri Solid Waste Management District. The agency approved an $8,500 grant to MFA in Linn, for a new plastic recycling machine. The store hopes to have it operational before the end of the year.
Griffin asked the commissioners to look over the Sales Tax Distribution Deposit Notices from October. Deposited Nov. 6, the original sales tax yielded $47,336.88, $4,829.25 higher than in 2019, which was $2,008.54 lower than in 2018. The 911 sales tax brought in $52,905.95. Comparison to past years was unavailable. The courthouse renovation tax pulled in $52,906. Comparison to past years was unavailable. The infrastructure tax paid $26,373.72, $2,797.87 higher than in 2019, which was $1,110.39 lower than in 2018. The use tax netted $41,385.09, $23,527.60 higher than in 2019, which was $3,952.05 lower than in 2018. The Proposition P Sales Tax for Law Enforcement brought in $46,387.35, still in its first year.
Commissioners approved paying bills from Oct. 27 through Nov. 9 as follows by department: 911/EMA ($8,443.65); Assessor ($4,555.97); Building & Grounds ($1,371.83); CARES Act ($7,304.80); Circuit Clerk ($453.82); Collector ($1,867.32); Commission ($190.50); County Clerk ($167.33); Elections ($14,110.89); Health Department ($826.08); Miscellaneous ($19,401.31); Prosecuting Attorney ($26.20); Road & Bridge ($22,545.31); and Sheriff-Jail ($13,033.08), for a total of $94,297.69.
Commissioners signed outgoing checks.
At the Tuesday, Nov. 10 meeting, Griffin noted Veterans Day was Wednesday, Nov. 11. “We thank all the veterans for their service to the country,” he said.
The 2020 Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) Annual Conference is scheduled for Nov. 23-24. It will be virtual rather than live.
Osage County offices will be closed to the public Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26-27, for Thanksgiving.