Commissioners seek different option to move Eitzen statue

HERMANN — A crew from the Gasconade County Road and Bridge Department might be called on to prepare the site on the courthouse lawn for the Charles Eitzen statue, an option being considered after only one bid was received Thursday morning for the project that involves moving the likeness of the county’s benefactor out of the building.

Eitzen was the Hermann businessman who donated the land overlooking the Missouri River for the Courthouse and the money with which to build it.

The only bid for the work was received from Huey Construction, LLC., of Fulton. The price tag is $13,850. That amount raised the eyebrows of Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland of Hermann. “I think we need to rebid it,” Holland said. “That seems like a lot of money.”

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel of Hermann and Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore agreed and noted that a member of the county’s staff is experienced in working with concrete. However, doing this work would take him away from his grader-operator duties for a while.

Commissioners agreed to take the bid under advisement and check on the costs associated with doing the work in-house, such as the cost of materials and the affect it might have on the department. Lairmore said he would talk with road agency administrators about the option of having the employee do the work.

The plan is to move the 6-foot metal statue from its position in the courthouse to a raised base. The project includes lighting the statue. The County Commission could announce its decision on the project at tomorrow’s session.

In another matter that could involve the Road and Bridge Department, commissioners agreed that it would include a parking lot rehab when it crafts the 2019 operating budget. The gravel lot that lies adjacent to the courthouse is plagued with potholes. The road department will be asked to make a quick fix with a load of gravel until a more permanent solution can be arranged. Miskel said he thinks the parking lot should be constructed of concrete.

The County Clerk’s Office will begin assembling the various department’s budget requests later this year with the commission putting the final touches on the funding document in January after it has in hand more definite revenue figures from property tax payments after the end of this year.

In other matters taken up during the commission’s Sept. 13 session:

The latest General Revenue sales tax figures were reported by Treasurer Mike Feagan. The county’s reimbursement check from the Missouri Department of Revenue for September — reflecting sales in the county made in August — was $98,166. This is the fourth consecutive month the county has seen an increase in month-over-month revenue from a year ago.

However, it was a small increase, only $34. Still, Feagan noted, it is an increase. “Even $30 ahead is $30 ahead,” he said.

For the first nine months, county sales tax revenue is running $52,114 ahead of the amount received during the same period a year ago — $769,547 compared with $717,433. The county is on pace to meet and possibly exceed the 2017 sales tax total of $965,243.

The county renewed its letter of agreement with Ameren UE through which the utility helps fund the Gasconade County Emergency Management Agency. Ameren provides $50,000 a year to the agency for emergency planning because the Morrison area is within the so-called “blast zone”radius of the Callaway County nuclear power plant. There are four counties included in the zone — Gasconade, Callaway, Osage and Montgomery.

In addition to planning for flooding and other natural disasters, the county’s EMA staff of Kris and Teresa Bayless take part in regular training sessions aimed at responding to a mishap at the nuclear power plant. That training is overseen by federal and state response agencies and includes local emergency service agencies.

The Bayless couple drew praise from Ameren’s John Bassford, who, along with Gerry Rauch, was on hand Thursday for the signing of the renewed letter of agreement. “Kris and Teresa have done a lot to upgrade things” regarding emergency planning, Bassford told the Commission.

On another EMA front, Kris Bayless told county administrators that Gasconade County has only one trained American Red Cross volunteer. That was the backdrop for information he provided to county officials regarding an informational meeting tonight (Wednesday) at the Owensville Branch of Scenic Regional Library.

Set from 5:30 to 6:30, the meeting will provide information from the Red Cross to county residents on topics ranging from blood drives to providing shelter for victims of fires, floods, tornadoes or other disasters. The Red Cross asks anyone interested in attending the meeting to call 314-281-7968 in order to plan an adequate amount of food for the light supper that will be provided.

In an update to an ongoing situation, Lairmore noted that he has been contacted by a group interested in maintaining the Richardson Cemetery. The upkeep of that burial site about three miles south of Owensville is the focus of a lawsuit filed by a St. Louis County man who says he can no longer care for the site.

He is trying to donate $5,000 to the county for the cemetery upkeep, but county officials are trying to avoid receiving the money,citing a concern of setting a precedent that could lead to many other such moves throughout the county. It’s estimated that Gasconade County has about 200 cemeteries, many of which are family burial sites located in remote parts of the county that might have family members available to maintain them.

A hearing is scheduled on Oct. 11 in Gasconade County Circuit Court to hear the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Miskel suggested taking the non-profit group’s offer under advisement. “I would recommend we wait until after the hearing,” the presiding commissioner said.

The regular inventory of county property is taking place by all departments, according to County Clerk Lesa Lietzow. 

The inventory is required by MOPERM (Missouri Public Entity Risk Management), the statewide agency that works with local governments to limit taxpayers’ liability. The inventory is used in figuring the cost of insurance coverage by the agency. It is time for the county to either renew coverage through MOPERM or go out for bids. 

Gasconade County was covered by MOPERM several years ago and then was insured by Continental Western for two years before returning to MOPERM. Miskel said he supports putting insurance coverage out for bid just to see what kind of rates are available. “We owe it to the taxpayers,” he said.