Osage County Commission News

Tuesday, November 25, 2020

By HB Dodds, UD Staff Writer
Posted 11/25/20

Road and Bridge

The recently purchased combination belly dump rig of Truck #49 and Trailer #24 was at MHC Kenworth in Columbia, getting their final hookup details installed. It was scheduled to be …

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Osage County Commission News

Tuesday, November 25, 2020

Posted

Road and Bridge

The recently purchased combination belly dump rig of Truck #49 and Trailer #24 was at MHC Kenworth in Columbia, getting their final hookup details installed. It was scheduled to be finished by Friday, Nov. 20.

All plow trucks have been serviced and prepared for winter weather. “[We’re prepared] the best we can be,” said Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker.

Commissioners have received a complaint about a low-water slab on CR 423. Osage County Second District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes has been out to look at it and concurs in principle with a citizen’s complaint about it. It is deteriorating, but there are worse slabs in the county. Not only that, no obvious solution to this crossing’s problem is readily available. “I don’t know what the answer is to it,” said Kliethermes.

MFA, Linn, and Schaeperkoetter Store, Inc., Mt. Sterling, have expressed interest in bidding on fuel distribution to the department. Commissioners will call and talk to them. They will be checking specifically on getting a tank placed in Loose Creek. Ownership of, or leasing that tank, in particular, has messed up some fuel supply deals to the county in the past.

Crews performed ditch repair on Wildwood Street in Bonnots Mill; and grader operators worked on CRs 202, 233, 271, 304, 306, 309, 309A, 311, 322, 332, 403, 404, 423, 424, 431, 514, 516, 521, 542, 608, 609, 613A, 621, 623, 636, 713, 714, 715, 721, and 722.

911/EMA

Osage County 911/EMA Director Designate Ron Hoffman presented a copy of the advertising flyer his department will have included in the Osage County Assessment update mailing this winter. It’s an ad for citizens to have their rural driveway entrances or street addresses marked. A phone number and an email for citizens to order signs, get more information, or report missing road signs are also included. The flyer also promotes participation in the Smart911 program. “The Smart911 program is very important now with more cell phones,” said Hoffman.

Commissioners revisited the issue of stolen private road signs. Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin wants to continue the county policy of providing the signs in the first place since the program is a County 911 initiative. Once the signs are stolen, vandalized, or otherwise lost or compromised, though, he wants the property owner to take responsibility for further expenditures. Osage County First District Commissioner John Glavin is in favor of waiting for Osage County Prosecutor Amanda Grellner to weigh in on having the fines increased for stealing those, and other county road signs. He feels better enforcement and a heavier price to pay might reduce the theft.

“What we really need to do is to put a good healthy fine on that and enforce it,” he added.

Outgoing 911 Director Andrea Rice is to receive a special award at the Emergency Management Directors’ meeting at the Callaway Energy Center, Steedman, at 11 a.m., Monday, Dec. 14. “They’re going to recognize Andi for her years of service,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman briefed the commission on the transition from Rice to himself. “So far, the transition is going well,” he said.

A 911 dispatcher has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Quickly quarantined, the individual is recovering and should be back to work soon. “We’ve coordinated it with the health department,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman borrowed a wall-mounted body temperature thermometer from the Linn Fire Protection District. He has written a grant to purchase a new one for the Emergency Management Center (EOC). This quickly screens for fevers in employees reporting to work. “We’ve got it set up,” he said. “It works really well, catching people coming into the room.”

Building and Grounds

Osage County Building and Grounds Janitorial and Maintenance Worker John Kennedy was granted permission to close the front entrance to the Osage County Courthouse early last Wednesday. Verslues Construction wanted some daylight to power wash the front porch. “You can’t have people going in and out with all that water coming down,” said Kennedy. “If they wait until 4:30 [regular closing time], it’ll get dark too soon. If they can get going by 2:30, they can be done by dark.”

“When they go home, they’ll have to exit the building through the rear,” Griffin observed.

Agreeing, Kennedy added, “A lot of them do that now anyway.”

Commissioners had no objection.

Kliethermes announced the new balusters for the courthouse porch facade have arrived. Kennedy announced the capstones from the balustrade were removed. When it came time to put the new ones up, Verslues Construction found they had underestimated the weight. The plan to overcome the difficulty was to cut them in half and then pin them back together once elevated. Commissioners approved.

Verslues Construction has communicated there was a cost overrun on the roof reconstruction. The contract includes a $5,000 cost overrun buffer, and the roof has now sucked down $2,926.67 of that, leaving $2,077.33.

Verslues Construction made a pitch to have tuckpointing added to the contract. After working around the front of the building during the last few weeks, they now estimate $8,415 would cover the work. Subtracting the $2,077.33 from the overrun fund, this would involve a $6,337.67 amendment. Rather than committing the funds, commissioners elected to wait until the new budget year. They will then address the tuckpointing to the courthouse. They reiterated the project cannot combine with the Annex Building tuckpointing already to bid in the new year.

After hearing this, Verslues Construction countered to tuckpoint 40 square feet above the porch roofline for $560. That would not use all the $2077.33 left, so no amendment to the contract would be necessary. It would seal against leaks through the wall which might damage the new roof repairs. Commissioners approved.

Commissioners signed service agreements with Rehagen Heating & Cooling, Westphalia, Rayfield Communications, Springfield, and Remote Computer Services, LLC, Westphalia. This ensures certain repairs would not have to go through complicated bidding processes.

CARES Act

There was a rush of last-minute applications for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding from the county. Griffin announced at that moment, there was a balance of $449,769.59 not yet awarded. The applications which were then in hand would have exceeded that. “If we approve them all, we won’t have any more money left,” said Kliethermes.

Plus, the deadline for application, Friday, Nov. 20, had yet to arrive. The commission proceeded carefully, with a strict eye toward priorities.

The commission approved reimbursement to the Linn Fire Protection District for $976.97 and $197.98. An application for pre-approval for $7,238.30 was also approved. One other pre-approval request was held for further discussion. A request for reimbursement from the Chamois Fire Protection District for $20,481.21 was approved. A request for pre-approval from the Osage County EMA for $20,325.28 was approved. All other requests, most for much larger amounts, were put on hold until a special meeting Monday, Nov. 23.

”We’ve got to keep back for the Osage County Health Department (OCHD) and the auditor,” Kliethermes observed.

Griffin has been contacted by Williams Keepers (WK), LLC, Columbia, a firm that can audit the county’s administration of CARES Act funds. They can do the job for $50,000, a fee which can be paid from the CARES Act funds. The commission accepted the offer, finding the price around what they had predicted. There was no other response to a series of inquiries.

“We ran the ad in the paper,” Kliethermes commented.

“We got turned down by two,” Griffin added.

Commissioners approved the offer from WK.

Health Department

OCHD Administrator Susan Long presented a draft letter to Gov. Mike Parson requesting he impose a “mask mandate” across the state, which commissioners approved and signed. Other jurisdictions in the state have sent a similar request to the governor.

She sought approval for county Advisory Number 4. It included a return to Phase I guidelines and to be in effect until Dec. 31. Commissioners approved and signed the order, which goes back to a request meetings have a maximum attendance of 10. Rooms are reduced to 25% occupancy for public gatherings.

Employee Health

Insurance

Osage County Chief Deputy Clerk Valerie Prater briefed the commissioners on next year’s employee health insurance plan. The new rates are going to go “up a significant amount,” she said. Some current employees are suffering major healthcare challenges. That’s adding upward pressure to the group’s premium costs. Currently, the county pays $425 to offset the premiums employees must pay themselves. If they continue at that rate, Prater believes many employees will drop the plan. They’ll pursue Obamacare or switch to a spouse’s coverage. Reducing the census will then cause a further rate increase for those who have only the choice to remain. An individual’s premium on a standard plan would increase from $75 to $152 with no increase from the county. Carrying family members as well would be even more cost-prohibitive.

Agent Ronnie Staggs, Account Manager, calculated one option to be for the county to increase its offering to $442. This will still leave the employees a stiff increase. Another option to increase the subsidy to $475 would reduce the employee obligation. It would decrease from $112 to $75. The commissioners called Staggs to ask questions and achieve clarity.

Kliethermes and Griffin care about putting more money into a benefit not all select. Prater and Glavin believe the only obligation that counts is to offer all the same benefits. Once they turn it down, they should have no further complaint.

Kliethermes was inclined to “split the difference.” He supported an increase to $450, halfway between last year’s $425 and the top request of $475. Staggs wants a quick decision from the commission to prepare literature for employees. This will help them understand and make their decisions. Commissioners, as well as attending department heads, felt the rush inappropriate.

“They did this last year,” said Griffin.

“They tried to slam it down our throats like this today,” added Kliethermes.

“It’s hard to make a decision like this in just one day,” added Rice.

Miscellaneous

The commission approved paying bills from Nov. 10 through Nov. 18 as follows by department: 911/EMA ($12,889.05); Assessor ($672.58); Building & Grounds ($209.87); CARES Act ($54,183.44); Circuit Clerk ($255.79); County Clerk ($296.73); Health Department ($5,814.81); Miscellaneous ($297.45); Prosecuting Attorney ($551.53); Recorder Technology Fund ($2,099.84); Road & Bridge ($1,293.75); and Sheriff-Jail ($78,137.57): for a total of $146,702.41.

Osage County offices will be closed to the public Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26-27, for Thanksgiving.

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