CHARLESTON - The cost to participate in a coalition of counties and cities in southeast Missouri which would lobby this area's interests at the state capitol has been reduced to a price Mississippi County can afford, according to county officials.
County Clerk Junior DeLay reported during Thursday's county commission meeting that Shanon M. Hawk, a legislative assistant for the Bryan Cave law firm in Jefferson City who proposed the coalition, "revised her fee schedule" so the total cost for each county will now be only $10,000 annually.
Commissioners agreed that the county could commit to half of the amount each year if Charleston and East Prairie can come up with the other half.
Homer Oliver, commissioner, said that although neither the cities nor the county have any money budgeted for such an expense, he sees "real merit in being represented."
Commissioners also agreed that the remainder of this year would have to be pro-rated or they would wait until the beginning of next year to join. "There's no way we'll pay $10,000 to hop on for five months," said Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg.
In other Mississippi County commission business:
* Commissioners reviewed a letter from Scott Meyer, district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, clarifying "the official position of the Missouri Department of Transportation and myself" on a proposed Interstate-66 route through Missouri.
In the letter, Meyer said MoDOT "must wait until the study is complete before we plan or speculate" and listed factors that "will play a large role in the study's outcome."
Meyer acknowledged that as Highway 60 is already a four-lane highway through much of the state, it would be more cost effective to bring it up to interstate standards rather than building a new highway.
On the other hand, Meyer wrote that "it does not seem financially prudent or a wise use of tax dollars for the state to build an additional four-lane bridge across the Mississippi when several crossings already exist in the area."
Finally, Meyer mentioned Illinois' complete lack of interest in the project noting it declined to even participate in the study.
Commissioners also reviewed figures from MoDOT indicating that if Proposition B passes, the county would receive $93,700 in 2004 as their share of the gas and vehicle tax. "So we're going to double (the amount received)," Blumenberg said. Charleston's share was listed as $34,400 and East Prairie's as $23,400.
Commissioner Martin Lucas expressed his concern over how MoDOT projects have been applied in the county in the past, but Oliver spoke in support of the proposal even though he agreed there has been some poor management from MoDOT. "I personally feel it's a good deal," he said. "How else are they going to fix the roads?"
Oliver also said that while St. Louis and Kansas City would probably end up with most of the money, there would still be a "ripple effect" on area counties, "however minute it is."
* Commissioners reviewed a letter from the State Tax Commission advising state reimbursement for assessment costs incurred by the county will be reduced from $6.25 per parcel to $5.50.
DeLay said the total effect on the county would be $6,134.10 less than the $54,000 usually received each year.
* DeLay updated the commissioners on the proposal to waive recording fees on the rural water district project. "We can't waive any of it," said DeLay.
The district may, however, consolidate much of the paperwork to reduce their cost, he said.
* Oliver said the county highway department needs to assign someone to spray Johnson grass.