Lawyer will be hired to represent local groups
CHARLESTON - Mississippi County will join Charleston and East Prairie as respondents for hearings on the St. John's Bayou Basin project.
"We're on board," said Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg during Thursday's county commission meeting.
David Brewer, Charleston's city manager, said the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Environmental Defense has filed a motion to be included as a respondent in the water quality certification hearings.
He recommended the county and its two largest municipalities should file as respondents, then, on behalf of the project. The town of Pinhook was also mentioned as a possible additional respondent, and State Rep. Lanie Black will reportedly also file on behalf of the project, Brewer said.
Brewer explained in these types of situations if respondents file on both sides, the judge is likely to toss them all out.
Commissioners said they would like to hire John Oliver to represent them on this issue.
"I'll poll the council and get back to you," said Brewer regarding the decision to jointly hire Oliver. "Just as far as I'm concerned, we need to do it."
Officials agreed if this issue is resolved in favor of the project, they can expect a lawsuit to be filed next to block the project.
In other business and discussions Thursday:
* Commissioners approved paying a bill for assessor's office software from general revenue.
The total cost for the software is $3,500, according to DeLay. "The bill was for half of that amount," he said.
DeLay said commissioners had approved the purchase during a previous meeting but had not specified a fund. "That was never discussed - where the funds would come from," said DeLay.
With the purchase not being budgeted for, commissioners agreed the general revenue fund could stand the expenditure better than the assessor's fund.
The other half of the amount will be due upon the software's installation, DeLay said.
* Commissioners are hearing plenty of complaints about county road conditions but are as yet unable to address the problems.
"There's no reason to put down anything until it dries up," said Commissioner Martin Lucas. "I've been here nine years and I don't think I've ever seen them so bad - they're soaked."
The combination of melting ice from the ice storm and recent rains have county ditches full, Lucas said.
* The county will not buy pickup trucks for Johnson grass spraying as planned for this year.
"Our road and bridge (department budget) is going to be tight," said Blumenberg. "I don't think road and bridge will be able to afford them."
Commissioners discussed equipping one of the county's existing trucks for Johnson grass spraying.
A chip-and-seal blacktopping process will also be cut back from what was planned earlier, although officials intend to "at least get it operational and go from there," Commissioner Homer Oliver said.
* Blumenberg suggested looking into using low-security prisoners from the Southeast Missouri Correctional Center for additional low-cost labor for the county-maintained Oak Grove Cemetery.
"Its an every-day job," said Blumenberg of maintaining the cemetery, noting that while it looks better than it ever has, "it still could look a bit better."
Blumenberg said East Prairie officials have had positive reports after using prisoner labor for their city.
The cost is $7.50 day and to be eligible designated supervisors would have to attend training sessions, Blumenberg said.
Commissioners also discussed trading in the cemetery's lawn mower on a new mower. Officials explained experience has shown it is more cost effective to trade them in for new ones after about two years.
* An application to raise the reimbursement rate for holding Immigration and Naturalization Service prisoners from $50 to $65 has been filed.
Blumenberg said the county should hear back in a couple weeks and, if approved, the new rate will be effective beginning in April.