Pentecostal Bridge mediation sounds  hopeful to commissioners

By H.B. Dodds, Staff Writer
Posted 11/11/21

United States District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes conducted a mediation hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 2 in Columbia for the purpose of discovery in the case of the wreck of the Pentecostal Bridge. …

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Pentecostal Bridge mediation sounds  hopeful to commissioners

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United States District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes conducted a mediation hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 2 in Columbia for the purpose of discovery in the case of the wreck of the Pentecostal Bridge. Commissioners came from the meeting with some optimism. They felt Wimes was receptive but no hard agreements or judicial decisions would come from such a hearing. 

"The judge's impression was they were way more agreeable than he expected," said Osage County Eastern District Commissioner John Trenshaw.

"The judge said they did accept responsibility," added Osage County Western District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes.

"They want to be released from any liability of environmental damage to the river from removal," said Osage County Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin. Eldon Stutsman Transportation, the trucking company whose driver wrecked the bridge, made clear they would be willing to pay much quicker without that liability. Salvage of the bridge is still on the front burner. Negotiation for replacing the bridge will come later.

Bartlett and West Engineering, Jefferson City, is doing the planning estimates for a new bridge. They have hired, with the county's approval, Engineer Allen Smith, St. Louis, as an expert witness to work on the lawsuit. Commissioners approved his fee schedule.

ROAD AND BRIDGE

Osage County Road and Bridge Foreman Ron Kempker announced the new mower-head motor from Alamo has arrived. He had considered rebuilding the old motor, but "the parts are twice as much as the whole unit," he said. "It's crazy." 

He keeps a motor in stock so he can replace them immediately when one fails. By his estimation, they go out less often than once a year.

Kliethermes called attention to a clogged culvert on CR 608 after a citizen noted it. Neither Kliethermes nor Kempker was aware of a pipe under the road at that location. Kempker promised to address the problem.

Kliethermes also passed on a concern about trees overhanging too low on CR 522 near Freeburg.

Trenshaw asked for material on CR 322. "We'll get some rock on it," said Kempker. 

However, he's battling an exhausted materials budget. Plus, there are a limited number of quarries now producing material to spread. The department has harvested far less creek rock than expected this year, primarily due to a chronic manpower shortage. Creek rock may cost no purchase price to obtain, but it requires a lot of man hours.

Griffin asked about progress on Cedar Creek near CR 424. He's anxious to see work progressing soon.

Kempker reported some State Tech students have taken some applications. They could provide some part-time help.

Department employees hauled rock on CRs 302, 317, and 525, and patched asphalt; crews performed service on Backhoe #10 and Grader #08; crews replaced culverts on CRs 304 and 305; mowers worked on CR 723; workers removed trees on CRs 305 and 611; and graders worked on CRs 202, 203, 204, 209, 235, 241, 244, 303, 502, 511, 522, 526, 532, 533, 610, 611, 636, 701, 703, 704, 725, and 725A.

SHERIFF

Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham announced a grant for officer safety equipment and transportation that will pay $7,000, unmatched, for a car repeater and a handheld radio. "It will improve officer safety," said Bonham. "Communication is always the biggest factor in any incident. We found the bugs and fixed the bugs." 

He was referring to dead spots revealed by recent active shooter drills at Fatima and Chamois. New handheld radios will transmit through repeaters in the officer's car, which should eliminate some of those dead spots.

Bonham asked about 2021 budget amendments as he's anxious to get his budget amended. He's had a lot of money coming in from jail bills and the sale of assets. It goes to general revenue, even though it replaces unbudgeted money he's spent. The sheriff's office has taken in the money and then spent it by necessity. However, the flow isn't even on paper. For instance, grant money for specific office expenditures shows as general revenue income; but it's spent by the sheriff's office.

He's also concerned about rising food prices for a jail that continues to be well populated. Once again, many of the inmates are coming from outside the county. 

"Guest" prisoners produce revenue, but it goes to general revenue. On paper, it doesn't offset the jail's expenditure to house and feed those prisoners. Five prisoners are coming soon from Maries County. Other neighboring counties are currently out of beds. Osage County should be able to pick up additional funds helping them out. Plus, the prisoners being incarcerated are routinely being held longer. The charges for which they're being held are far more serious than normal. 

"It's going to continue to go up," said Bonham, referring both to revenue coming in and costs to house those prisoners. He categorizes the balance as "asset management." That revenue cannot, because of budget protocols, directly offset expenses on paper. It takes a budget amendment to reconcile it.

Then there are expenses for replacement vehicles. He has been unable to get bids for the vehicles he plans to purchase in 2022, but he's estimating it to be $5,000 more per car. However, the six vehicles he intends to retire and sell should draw more money.

Griffin asked about efforts to collect bills from prisoners who were convicted. Those bills are now pursued by a collection agency recently contracted by the county. There has been some success. Bonham estimates $3,000 has been collected since the effort began. 

"There's a perception in some circles that it's free to stay [in the jail]," said Bonham. "It's not." 

The collection company charges the debtor for their services. Any collection made is free to the county. Other counties using the service have collected as much as a third of the past-due accounts. These have before been considered uncollectible.

"We're having a record year on revenues," concluded Bonham.

OCHD

Osage County Health Department Administrator Kim Sallin announced 44 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. That's more than twice as many as the previous week. There were a total of 72 breakthrough cases, and three citizens were hospitalized at the time of her report.

Multiple positive cases are asymptomatic. Until now, very few agencies have been testing young people. Even though infected, they are not usually ill. However, many Fatima students are tested due to a program available there. "Now that we're testing them routinely, we're finding the kids do in fact contract it," said Sallin. 

While infected students are often not sick, concern remains for their ability to spread the disease to older contacts who do become ill. 

The Pfizer vaccine has gained United States Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) approval for use among children as young as five years old. OCHD is now offering those shots, but parents must call ahead to make an appointment. They are not offered on a walk-in basis.

Sallin wants to pass on the OCHD's willingness to help schools with routine screenings. Some are falling behind due to their increased burden with COVID testing and tracing.

There have been no more positive cases of influenza in the county, leaving that total at two.

A staff member has resigned and Sallin is now advertising for a replacement. On the other hand, part-time nurse Abby Baker is a certified lactation consultant. Sallin would like to offer her services here in the county, but space issues are critical. "If we could provide that service here in Linn, I think it would be fantastic," she said.

OCHD continues to accept applications for more part-time nurses. One is now interviewing and is interested in a position with no guaranteed hours. That creates an absolutely no-lose situation for Sallin's department. "I think that could be a huge benefit to us," said Sallin.

OCHD is working with the Linn Police Department to sponsor a local Shop with a Hero event on Saturday, Dec. 4. They then will work with the University of Missouri (MU) Extension to wrap gifts the same day. More community partners are being recruited.

There have been two more Shiga toxin–producing E. coli (STEC) infections in the county. Both were in adults. The disease is not as serious in adults as it is in children. One child previously infected months ago continues to endure intensive treatment.

Sallin has recently been involved in sewage overflow investigations. Commenting on the range of services and tasks engaged by the OCHD, "You all do a lot of different things people don't know about," said Griffin.

To add to Griffin's observation, OCHD recently performed a dog-bite stitch removal. The patient was unable to make arrangements with his doctor, with whom OCHD was able to coordinate the procedure.

Commissioners approved an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) request for funds totaling $10,864.80 to OCHD for four additional cell phones for 36 months. These will be used by nurses working from home or outside the office.

Commissioners opened two submissions from architects Porter, Berendzen & Associates, P.C. of Ashland, and Archer-Elgin Engineering, Surveying, and Architecture of Rolla, who responded to the opportunity to remodel the newly purchased OCHD building. That sale was scheduled to close on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

"They're both qualified," Kliethermes observed. 

Griffin and Trenshaw agreed. The county has had recent experience with Porter, Berendzen, and Associates so commissioners approved that firm’s submission.

911/EMA

Osage County 911/EMA Director Ron Hoffman has hired a full-time telecommunicator, who is now going through training. When certified, the department will be fully staffed with full-time workers. Hoffman would still like one more certified part-timer.

Hoffman is now looking at a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) program that includes mapping and automated vehicle location (AVL) features. He's impressed with the competitor to the county's current provider but he has more research to do. He's also making progress on making a decision on replacing the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) phone provider. "We're trying to make a good decision on both of these," said Hoffman.

Hoffman is also vigorously planning for the Osage County 911 Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

MISCELLANEOUS

Income report from the county clerk for October showed a grand total of $3,632.82, including liquor license ($56), auction ($53), notary ($50), conservation ($17), plat books ($105), election ($3,541.32) and miscellaneous ($1.50).

Commissioners reviewed these expenditures through Oct. 31, listed by department: 911 ($567,753.19), Assessor ($175,352.38), EMA ($98,084.57), Road & Bridge ($1,423,153.85), Building & Grounds ($52,392.22), Circuit Clerk ($9,354.41), Collector ($84,828.93), Coroner ($20,621.53), County Clerk ($89,571.21), Commission ($90,571.21), Elections ($12,367.74), Fringe Benefits ($214,641.81), Jail ($213,545.71), Juvenile Officer ($18,651.68), Prosecuting Attorney ($104,101.80), Public Administrator ($35,853.71), OCHD ($320,385.52), Recorder ($39,465.18), Sheriff ($695,860.67), Other ($5,915), Professional Organizations ($43,975.84), Surveyor ($7,083.60), Treasurer ($37,812.26), and Transfers ($6,600) for a grand total of $2,103,194.96. There were no expenditures from the emergency fund, leaving a balance of $68,370. With 83% of the year passed, expenditures total 76% of dollars budgeted.

Griffin has been appointed to another term on the Meramec Region Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) board.

MRPC Environmental Programs Director Tammy Snodgrass will address the Osage County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Osage County Commission Meeting. The committee will be briefed on the county's hazard mitigation plan and their input will be sought.

Osage County 911 Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet in the EOC at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17.

All county offices will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day.

All county offices will be closed Thursday, Nov 25, in observance of Thanksgiving, and following the lead of the state of Missouri, commissioners approved the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 26, as a paid holiday for county workers.

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