CHARLESTON - Mississippi County election judges made a bit more money than expected for their work Tuesday.
On the recommendation of County Clerk Junior DeLay, Mississippi County commissioners increased the compensation to $120 per day for supervisory judges and $100 per day for regular election judges during their regular session Thursday. Commissioners voted to make the change retroactive, effective Nov. 1.
"It's been several years since the election judge compensation has been addressed," said DeLay. "It's extremely difficult to get enough election judges nowadays."
Missouri statutes direct election officials be paid a set dollar amount rather than an hourly rate, DeLay said.
Before the raise, supervisory judges were paid $75, which works out to "barely above minimum wage," according to DeLay, and $65 per day for the regular judges - less than minimum wage.
Election judges typically work 14 hours, from 5:30 a.m. till 7:30 p.m. With the raise, based on 14 hours, the pay now works out to $8.57 and $7.14 for supervisory and regular election judges.
The other election officials who staff the resolution board and verification board, provide absentee services and the receiving judges will now receive $25 for each function they perform, each of which usually takes a few hours. These officials were previously paid a flat $50. Now, as most of the officials typically serve in three capacities, they will receive a total of $75 for their services.
Commissioners also accepted the general election certification and discussed Tuesday's election, agreeing it was a nice showing of registered voters. "A good election," said Commissioner Homer Oliver.
Presiding Commissiner Jim Blumenberg asked DeLay if they ever still find ballots with the choices circled instead of marked in.
"Every now and then you'll see one," DeLay said. Other ballots, not marked properly in pencil, are also "spat out" by the counting machine. "The machine won't pick up ink," said DeLay.
In all these cases, where clear "voter intent" is evident, it is up to the election judges to fill out a new ballot reflecting the voter's choices, DeLay explained, marking the voter's ballot as "original" and the replacement ballot as "duplicate" with a reference number "so the integrity of the original ballot is preserved.".
In other Mississippi County business:
* Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson reported on the ERSI home security grant he hoped to get and and use to offset the cost of setting up the county's Geographic Information System.
"We didn't get the grant," Thompson reported, "but we did get a consolation prize."
Along with some other materials, the county received a copy of ArcView 8.2 valued at around $1,600 making the application "a worthwhile effort," Thompson said.
Thompson also volunteered to represent Mississippi County at the Missouri Association of Counties conference Nov. 24-25 as a voting delegate.
Thompson explained a key issue for his office, the reduction of the state's contribution to the assessment fund from $6.20 per parcel to $5.50, will be discussed during the MAC conference.
He estimated the annual impact on Mississippi County would be about $6,650 less for the assessment fund.
"There may be a suit involved," said Thompson. "It is a revised statute that it can not be (reduced)."
"Just give us a report on it when you get back," asked Martin Lucas, commissioner.
* Commissioners will visit Tatums Nursery and Garden Center to look over oak and dogwood trees for the county-maintained Oak Grove Cemetery.
Oliver said the vendor he been working with had seven oaks at around 11-12 feet tall and another seven only 7-8 feet tall.
"Really and truly, the trees all need to be the same size," Oliver said.
The vendor did confirm the oaks would need to be 50 feet apart.
Commissioners agreed on either white or red oaks. Blumenberg said he thinks the dogwoods should all have white blooms.
"We do need to get them planted in the next few months," Blumenberg said of the project.
Blumenberg also brought up another idea for dressing up the county-maintained facility: "I'd love to have a nice flagpole at the cemetery," he said, large enough to fly a 5-by-8-foot flag instead of a 4-by-6.
Blumenberg said he would like something similar to the pole installed at East Prairie for about $1,000. "People like it," he said.
* Following a public hearing, a budget amendment was approved to increase the Crime Reduction Fund's budget by $6,500 to $26,500 to account for money already in the account.
he money comes primarily from the county's cut of inmate telephone services, according to DeLay, and is spent on drug investigations.
* The courthouse's west-facing clock is keeping time again, DeLay reported. The clock was fixed by moving the hands out farther from the clock's face, reducing pressure that was slowing the clock.
Officials had previously speculated that the clock motor had been struck by lightning.
* Lucas said there may be money available through Rural Development to install storm warning sirens in the county.
Presently only Charleston and East Prairie have early warning systems, according to commissioners.