County EMA director ‘team’ asked to resign by end of 2019; no immediate replacement announced

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 12/18/19

HERMANN — The couple that has overseen Gasconade County’s Emergency Operations Program — and drawn high praise from utility giant Ameren Missouri — is on the way out with no …

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County EMA director ‘team’ asked to resign by end of 2019; no immediate replacement announced

Posted

HERMANN — The couple that has overseen Gasconade County’s Emergency Operations Program — and drawn high praise from utility giant Ameren Missouri — is on the way out with no apparent successor in place to begin planning for what is projected by some forecasts to be another spring season of flooded rivers.

Emergency Management Director Kris Bayless and his assistant, wife Theresa Bayless, were told Thursday morning that the county commission is “going in a different direction” with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and that the pair could submit their resignations or be released from county employment.

“The 30th (of December) is our last day,” Kris Bayless said Monday morning in an interview with the Gasconade County Republican. “First, he thanked us for our years of service,” Bayless said of Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann. “And then they said they were going in a different direction” with the program that plans and coordinates responses to natural emergencies.

The Baylesses met with the county commission in a closed session Thursday morning. Miskel in recent weeks indicated a desire by administrators to make a change in the EOC. At that time, the presiding commissioner said the thinking was to expand the scope of the office to include courthouse security. He said that meant a law enforcement person with arrest powers would head the EOC.

Courthouse security has become a growing concern for officeholders and their employees with the influx of people into the building for municipal court cases that have been transferred to the county level by three cities in Gasconade County.

But that plan seems to have been set aside. Miskel Monday morning told the Republican “We decided to go in a different direction” with the office, but noted that the scope of the EOC now will not be expanded to include courthouse security. In the absence of a new emergency management director, those duties normally would fall to Miskel as the county’s highest elected official.

It’s unclear how the change will affect the county’s relationship with Ameren, which operates the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant and provides significant financial support to the EOC and the other counties in the power plant’s so-called radiation zone. Several weeks ago, after he first learned of the potential change in the EOC, Ameren’s John Bassford expressed his concern about a personnel change, noting the multiple tasks performed by the EMD. Bassford said Ameren was pleased with the working relationship it has developed over the years with the Baylesses.

“Ameren is just livid over this,” Kris Bayless said Monday morning.

At an earlier commission session, Miskel told Bassford the county would do nothing to jeopardize the utility’s support for the county and pledged to keep Bassford informed in any action that would be taken regarding the EOC.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow Monday morning said no formal action was taken during the closed meeting between the Baylesses and the commission; only a verbal commitment was given by the couple to submit resignations. “They have until the end of the year” to formally submit their resignations, Lietzow told the Republican.

Kris Bayless said he thinks Miskel and Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann, will regret their decision to make a personnel change. “Mark my words, those two commissioners, Holland and Miskel, are going to realize they made a mistake. Just wait until this Spring,” Kris Bayless said.

According to Bayless, Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, was opposed to the change. “He tried to talk them out of it,” Bayless said.

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