CHARLESTON - Involvement in water quality certification hearings for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. John's Bayou Basin project as respondents may get considerably more expensive.
During their regular meeting Thursday, Mississippi County Commissioners reviewed a letter from attorney John Oliver, who was hired to represent the county and its two largest municipalities, advising that while attending evidentiary hearings for the water quality certification is "highly desirable," taking an active part would cost "probably no less than $7,500, and most likely in the $10,000 to $15,000 range."
David Brewer, city manager for Charleston, advised commissioners he had placed the question of whether Charleston would come up with additional money for the attorney fees on the Council's agenda for their next regular meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
City and county officials decided in February to file as respondents for the hearings and to hire Oliver to represent them all. With the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Environmental Defense first filing a motion to be included as a respondent in the hearings, the hope was the judge would toss them all out on both sides.
"We are now regularly being asked to participate in substantive discussions involving this matter, including: discovery; expert witnesses; and the evidentiary hearing," Oliver explained in the letter. "As I have previously reported, the Administrative Law Judge simply embraced all interventions."
Commissioner Martin Lucas suggested approaching area ditch districts for contributions toward the attorney fees. "Or Sikeston," suggested Brewer.
Homer Oliver, commissioner, said that while $15,000 is a lot of money, a favorable result would justify the expenditure.
Brewer said the hearings would reportedly focus on East Prairie right away.
Officials agreed this would probably not be the last time they would have to spend money to fight for the project.
"They're going to try to get every entity to spend as much as they can," said Lucas of the environmentalists, "and they have unlimited funds."
In other Mississippi County news:
* Commissioners reviewed a letter opposing the proposed riverboat casino proposal near Wyatt.
"I want to applaud you three men for publicly denouncing the proposed "pie in the sky," wrote La Wanda Douglas of East Prairie.
Douglas also attached news articles reporting on other communities' problems with casinos.
* The purchase of a new radio for $950 from G&D Communications in Sikeston for the county's emergency management director, Terry McLain, was approved by commissioners.
* A pickup truck for the county's Johnson grass spraying operation was purchased for $6,700 after talking them down from $7,200, according to county officials.
Lucas suggested putting a Johnson grass emblem on the truck so residents are aware of the spraying efforts.