Decision to use excess funds draws rebuke from Holland

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 12/23/20

HERMANN — It might be the season of giving, but some Gasconade County officials were in no mood last week to give back to Uncle Sam a small amount of the CARES Act money appropriated for the …

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Decision to use excess funds draws rebuke from Holland

Posted

HERMANN — It might be the season of giving, but some Gasconade County officials were in no mood last week to give back to Uncle Sam a small amount of the CARES Act money appropriated for the incoming county coroner’s new vehicle.

But the decision to use a savings of $1,600 to purchase more lights for the new vehicle drew a sharp rebuke from one member of the County Commission.

“I want to go on record that I’m opposed to that,” said Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann. “Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” he said.

Coroner-elect Jeff Arnold told the Commission that the final cost of outfitting the new truck that has been purchased with CARES Act funds came in $1,600 less than the amount allocated. But to keep from having to return that money, it was decided that the money would be used to put more lights on the truck’s camper.

Nearly $70,000 of CARES Act money has been approved by the Commission — with Holland voting against — to purchase the truck and equip it. However, despite the added illumination, the truck won’t be ready for Arnold until several weeks after he begins his tenure on Jan. 1. Arnold said the dealer won’t have the truck ready for delivery until the end of February.

That poses a bit of a dilemma for county officials: How to transport a body when you don’t have a vehicle. Arnold said he is confident he can arrange transportation of bodies for autopsies if it’s necessary.

The incoming coroner said other area counties are facing the same problem because their new vehicles won’t be ready until well after the first of the year. “That’s the same with Osage County, Crawford County and a few more,” Arnold said.

Meanwhile, Arnold used the Commission session as an opportunity to clarify that no taxpayer dollars have been used to make improvements to his Owensville home, which will serve as his workplace as coroner. The County Commission had planned to renovate a portion of the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department station at Swiss to  house the coroner, but it was decided there simply isn’t enough room for an office for the coroner. Therefore, the Commission agreed to allow Arnold to work out of his home.

Arnold said he has been contacted by “many, many people” about what they believed was a use of county tax dollars to make improvements to his home to accommodate a work space. “No money was used, other than my own” for the improvements, Arnold said.

However, it should be noted that tax dollars were used to purchase furniture and office equipment for the coroner; however, because Arnold was able to obtain the items through the state surplus program, the cost to the taxpayers was minimal at only a few hundred dollars.

Regarding the Coroner’s Office, yet to be determined is who will be named as Arnold’s deputy. There was some discussion earlier that Sheriff Scott Eiler might be named as the deputy coroner but other names have been mentioned, as well. Arnold could announce his pick for deputy coroner soon after he begins his term Jan. 1, if not sooner.

It was noted during the reading of the previous week’s minutes by County Clerk Lesa Lietzow that county Emergency Management Director Dan Dyer, who is resigning the post at year’s end, has agreed to remain in the position until the county finds a “qualified successor.” The Commission met in closed session last week to consider applicants for the position, but no one had applied for the job.

Dyer, a professional firefighter, returned as the county EMD in January. He is leaving the post to attend to what was referred to as family issues.

The Commission meets next Wednesday, Dec. 30, rather than on Thursday, which is New Year’s Eve.

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