CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County officials may have found a way to make participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ditch cleanout program feasible.
During the regular County Commission meeting Thursday, Commissioner Martin Lucas said county officials had initially signed up to participate in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Emergency Watershed Protection Program but then declined participating in the program after determining the requirement to pay prevailing wages would make the county's match too expensive.
About $41 million was approved through the EWP program for projects in 10 counties in southeast Missouri to repair damages and remove silt from the spring flooding. The EWP program pays 75 percent of the cost of the ditch cleanouts leaving 25 percent for the local entity to cover.
Drainage districts in the county, which are not required to pay prevailing wages, according to Lucas, have been taking advantage of the program.
Lucas said he recently found out contractors who are owner-operators do not have to be paid prevailing wages by the county for EWP-funded projects on county-maintained ditches.
"This would save the county a lot of expense," he said.
Commissioners agreed to pursue funding through this program now for cleanouts on Ditch 10 and Ditch 3 totaling about 14 miles.
In other business Thursday, commissioners advised Sheriff Keith Moore they would have to go over figures before approving a budget amendment Moore requested for the law enforcement fund.
At this point in time, there should be 7 percent left in the budget, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay.
The sheriff's department line items are down to only 2 percent, however.
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said he won't know for sure until they go over all the figures, but predicted the budget will need something between $50,000 and $100,000 to finish up the year.
In the meantime, there will be a hold on purchase orders.
"If it's not a necessary item, we're not going to issue a P-O," Blumenberg said. "The money's not there."