Tri-County Newspapers cease publication

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/13/20

BELLE — Tri-County Newspapers — The Belle Banner, Bland Courier and Maries County Gazette — reverted ownership on May 1 from Craig and Nichoel Snodgrass, CNS Holdings, LLC, back to …

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Tri-County Newspapers cease publication

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BELLE — Tri-County Newspapers — The Belle Banner, Bland Courier and Maries County Gazette — reverted ownership on May 1 from Craig and Nichoel Snodgrass, CNS Holdings, LLC, back to Kurt Lewis. Lewis reportedly told employees after the May 6 edition that they would no longer be publishing.

The Snodgrasses announced the transferred ownership back to the Lewis family in a small, bottom-of-the-fold front-page advertisement in the May 6 edition of all three publications.

“We want to thank our valuable patrons for their business and support they have given us,” the advertisement read. “Effective May 1, 2020, ownership of Tri-County Newspapers has been transferred back to the previous owner. We are very thankful we had the opportunity to serve you.”

The advertisement was “signed” by the couple.

Public knowledge that the Lewises decided to close the businesses came May 7 when Linda Adkins, former staff writer in Vienna, told Maries County commissioners that “the May 6 (edition) was the last publication by the Snodgrasses.”

The information was further clarified on May 10 when former employee Kerri Jones announced it on her Facebook page.

“Well, as much as I hate it, I am now unemployed,” Jones wrote. “The Tri-County newspaper office is closed. No more Belle Banner, Bland Courier or Maries County Gazette newspapers as of May 6 issue. Please do not send any more checks for subscription renewals but we would appreciate you paying your outstanding amounts due to the Belle Banner, P.O. Box 711, Belle, Mo. 65013. Thanks again for your support over the years.”

Jones received 33 comments on her post as of 12:30 p.m. on May 11. Many area residents expressed sorrow over the newspapers’ demise and asked questions about its future.

Ronda Lewis, sister of the owner Kurt Lewis and daughter of the manager Ron Lewis, asked if the paper was for sale. Debra Wright asked if Kurt Lewis would be sending refunds to those who had recently subscribed to the newspaper and Jones said no.

“I just renewed mine last month,” Wright said.

Another local resident, Carol Jurgensmeyer, asked what happened that there was no warning in the May 6 edition of the three newspapers. Jones said she was told it was “business as usual and then no more issues to be published!”

Jones responded to those who asked if The Belle Banner was closing due to complications from COVID-19 and she said “partly.” She has worked for Tri-County Newspapers for three years and nine months. Three employees have been laid-off with the decision to close the newspaper.

Dennis Warden, owner of the Maries County Advocate, said he had been in negotiations since January with the Snodgrasses to purchase the three century-old publications.

“Negotiations fell through the last week of March because of an almost $1 million lien and $50,000 levy placed on the newspapers by the IRS,” Warden said. “The lien and levy occurred under the Lewises ownership.”

The Maries County Gazette has been published since 1847, the Belle Banner since 1906 and the Bland Courier since 1921. Kurt Lewis purchased the three publications in the late 1970s to early 1980s from Norman Gallagher.

The Snodgrasses took ownership in October 2019.

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