Commission to handle EMA duties until new director selected

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 1/8/20

Looking to quell what he said are rumors swirling around the change in the post of emergency management director, Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel Thursday morning again noted …

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Commission to handle EMA duties until new director selected

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Looking to quell what he said are rumors swirling around the change in the post of emergency management director, Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel Thursday morning again noted that county administrators have the task of emergency planning well in hand until a new director is named.

“If there’s any emergency in the county, we’ll handle it to the best of our ability,” Miskel said, adding that this is the third time during his tenure on the County Commission that a change in directors has been made.

“This is not new to us,” the presiding commissioner added during their Jan. 2 meeting held at Owensville’s City Hall. “We’ll get through it.”

Miskel, R-Hermann, was prompted to speak out again on the matter because of what he said were inaccuracies in some news reports and on comments on social media regarding the resignation of Emergency Management Agency Director Kris Bayless. Bayless submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 31, shortly after being formally notified Dec. 12 by the Commission that a change was being made in the position.

“What you have been reading is flawed,” Miskel said.

He suggested that if any county residents wished to learn more about the change they should attend a County Commission session. However, he has declined to speak about specifics of the change because it is a personnel matter.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow confirmed there was no vote taken by Commission members in the Dec. 12 closed session which last only about 10 minutes. “Two commissioners never said a word, anything, officially,” Lietzow told The Republican in December. “Larry handled it.”

Apparently one of the inaccuracies that Miskel referred to is the degree of concern about the change on the part Ameren Missouri emergency planners, as expressed earlier by Bayless. Bayless said that Ameren’s personnel were “livid” about the change.

Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, referred to this characterization Thursday morning. “It’s been said Ameren is very unhappy,” he said. “I’d like to know who said that.”

Miskel rejected the notion that Ameren is upset about the change in emergency management directors. “They are not pissed off,” he said, pointing to a text message he received earlier in the day from Ameren.

Gasconade County is one of four counties within the radiation zone of Ameren’s Callaway Nuclear Power Plant. Ameren’s emergency planners work closely with the Emergency Management Agencies of those counties. The utility also provides substantial funding for the EMAs as part of the agreement between the utility company and the counties.

Miskel acknowledged Ameren’s financial support for the EMA, which also provides planning for natural disasters such as flooding and tornadoes. “That’s who we have to answer to,” the top county official said, “and then FEMA and SEMA.” He was referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency, both of which also work with a county’s EMA in disaster planning.

Also, the presiding commissioner said the high rating Gasconade County has received from FEMA and SEMA for its emergency drills has been achieved not just because of the emergency management director, but several countywide elected officials who have a role in the exercises.

Today is the deadline for applications for the emergency management director’s post.

Lietzow said Monday that her minutes from the meeting will reflect Miskel’s stated intent that his comments were not directed at the newspaper’s coverage.

“This was the electronic media version and not the print media,” said Lietzow who specifically cited posts made by Bayless on the social media Facebook site and not The Republican’s coverage of the story.

Courthouse Society disbands

In other matters at Thursday’s session held in Owensville, the Commission learned that the Gasconade County Courthouse Society has disbanded and donated all of its funds to the county’s Courthouse Restoration Fund. County Treasurer Mike Feagan said that amounts to $10,512.

County administrators began work Tuesday on assembling the 2020 operating budget. They were expected to review the budget requests of the various offices and decide if they need to have further discussions with the officeholders about their funding requests. Those meetings could take place during Thursday’s regular weekly Commission session which will be held in the courthouse at Hermann.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 9 in room 4 on the first floor of the courthouse.

(With additional reporting by Dave Marner, managing editor).

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