Polling places consolidated for August special election

Most voters will be on the move in deciding fate of use tax issue

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 6/2/21

HERMANN — Most Gasconade countians casting votes in the Aug. 3 special election will be on the move, traveling to a new polling place to decide the fate of the proposed use tax for county …

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Polling places consolidated for August special election

Most voters will be on the move in deciding fate of use tax issue

Posted

HERMANN — Most Gasconade countians casting votes in the Aug. 3 special election will be on the move, traveling to a new polling place to decide the fate of the proposed use tax for county government and the Enhanced-911 program.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow, the county’s chief elections official, last week told the County Commission that her office had consolidated the usual 16 precincts into seven polling places, a move aimed at saving money for what will be a one-issue vote for almost all voters. 

Rosebud has an issue on the ballot and voters in the Tayloe precinct face an issue placed on the ballot by the Strain-Japan School District, which is seeking voter approval to maintain the property tax rate at $3.7451 per $100 assessed.

The use tax is the only countywide issue on the special election ballot. In the issue, county government is seeking voter approval for a combined use tax of 1.375 cents on purchases made from out-of-state vendors. The tax is aimed at collecting revenue now being lost on purchases made primarily over the Internet.

Of the 1.375 cents, 1 cent will go to county government and .375 cents will go to the E-911 program. Although separate agencies, state law requires county government to seek a use tax for the E-911 program, rather than allow E-911 to seek approval on its own. A simple majority is required for approval on the use tax.

Lietzow said her office tried to keep travel to a minimum for voters, but noted that some areas were more difficult than others regarding the consolidation effort. For instance, in the northwest portion of the county, voters in the Stolpe and Gasconade precincts will be traveling to Morrison to cast their votes.

In the more populous precincts — Hermann and Owensville — three polling places have been combined into a single site. In Owensville, voters in Wards 1 and 2 will cast votes with rural-area voters at the Gasconade County R-2 School District site.

In Hermann, voters in Wards 1 and 2 will travel outside of town to join Little Berger voters in casting ballots at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church on Highway 100 West.

“About 3,700 households will get a letter telling them what we’re doing,” the county clerk said.

The benefit of consolidating polling places for what is expected to be a light turnout extends beyond cost savings, she says. “It gives us a bigger pool of judges to pick from,” Lietzow explained, adding “we’ll probably have six judges sitting at the bigger ones to handle more people.”

The clerk said she would be ordering election supplies based on a turnout of 50 to 60 percent, just to ensure an adequate amount of materials in the event of a larger-than-anticipated showing by voters. But, she said, the turnout is expected to be “more like 20 percent, if we’re lucky.”

Other precincts which will see consolidation for this election include the Bland-Canaan site at Zion Evangelical Church in Bland which will also handle voters from the Redbird and Third Creek precincts.

Boulware precinct, with voters reporting to the Bay American Legion Hall, will also have voters from Swiss (the firehouse) and Drake (county road shed) added to the roster.

Rosebud voters will continue to cast ballots at City Hall and will not be affected by the consolidations.

Rosebud voters are being asked to approve $3 million in combined waterworks and sewerage system revenue bonds for “expanding and improving” their system. Bonds will be repair solely with revenue from operations of the water and sewer system. Since this is an odd-numbered election year for an August election, a two-thirds majority is required for approval.

Tayloe precinct voters at St. Johns UCC Bem will also be open for the county use tax and approximately 45 eligible voters who will be asked to help decide the Strain-Japan R-16 School District’s tax levy question.

Eligible R-16 voters are being asked to continue the district’s current operating tax levy of $3.7451 per $100 of assessed valuation. A simple majority is required to approve keeping the levy the same. 

Cemetery maintenance

In other matters, the Commission was told the Gasconade County Cemetery Fund has been established as part of the county’s financial record-keeping process. That fund became necessary earlier this year after the county lost a lawsuit brought by a representative of the Richardson Cemetery outside of Owensville. William Owens sued the county after the Commission refused to accept his donation of $5,000 aimed at funding the maintenance of the cemetery.

 Owens claimed in the suit that he was no longer able to maintain the burial site and that state law required counties to assume the maintenance of abandoned graveyards.

County officials argued that it was not able to maintain burial sites, concerned that accepting the donation would lead to many other such requests; it’s estimated that as many as 200 or more burial sites are scattered throughout Gasconade County, some possibly dating back to the county’s establishment 200 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and after many delays and continuances, a judge earlier this year ruled that state law, indeed, requires a county to assume the upkeep of abandoned graveyards, a decision that resulted in the county accepting Owens’ donation.

County Treasurer Mike Feagan said that donation has been bolstered by another $1,200 received in donations and more might be arriving from other family members. The county has received its first bill — for $300 — from the person assigned the task of maintaining the Richardson Cemetery.

Also, Lietzow mentioned that county administrators will need to amend its budget soon. A normal occurrence each year, amending the operating budget has more significance this year considering that more than $1.4 million has been added to the county’s bank account. That amount represents the first half of the $2.85 million allotted to Gasconade County under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the $2.2-trillion program aimed at helping the nation recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The amended budget work will be taking place at about the same time as the County Clerk’s Office assembles the mid-year fiscal review for the Commission. The county’s fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, which means it will be half over at the end of this month. The mid-year review affords the Commission a look at the various departments and how they stand with their own budgets.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, said that county officials had been notified by Ameren  Missouri personnel that the utility would be doing vegetation clearing along county roads.

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