Gallaher Says the ''State of the County'' is Good
Much appreciation goes to St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner, Harold Gallaher, for being our key speaker at this year's State of the County Address at Mineral Area College!
We very much appreciate you taking the time, each year, to provide us with information on the completed and ongoing improvements as well as the goals for our county!
The State of the County Address is held annually on President's Day at Mineral Area College and is hosted by the Park Hills - Leadington Chamber of Commerce, Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce, Desloge, MO Chamber of Commerce, Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce, & Bismarck Chamber of Commerce 2023. The event features updates from MAC, each community's Mayor, and the county's Presiding Commissioner.
Gallaher Says the "State of the County" is Good
Article Credit: Kevin Jenkins, The Daily Journal
Photo Credit: Kevin Jenkins
Due to the quantity of information shared by officials during Monday’s State of St. Francois County address at Mineral Area College, we are presenting the third in a series of three articles. The first, published Thursday, provided an overview of Mineral Area College. The second, published Friday, featured comments from the mayors of Bismarck, Bonne Terre, Desloge, and Park Hills. The following report is by St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher. — Editorial Staff
“We as commissioners have our daily list of things that we want to get done, and that changes with every phone call that comes in,” said Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher. “but we have a needs list. This is the long-term stuff that we're always looking for. And if you look at it, most of it includes buildings and facilities. and that's something you have to budget for and spend for. So that's why it gets on the long-term list and not the daily list.”
ARPA and grants
According to Gallaher, money the county has received from the federal and state governments through ARPA funds and grants has been used in recent years to fund a number of county projects.
“We had done a lot of planning and were kind of concerned about all the money, and then came ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act). We were notified that we would get $13,055,726 of ARPA funds. But we have a tendency not to spend money that we don't have," he said. "So until we got that first half of the money, which is $6 million, we didn't do much. And then [County Treasurer] Parks Peterson got busy and got those funds in the bank, and then we started working on it."
Gallaher listed 10 county needs that range from urgent to long-term. Those include space needs in the courthouse; air movement improvement in the annex building and the Weber Road Facility/morgue; space, medical, maintenance, kitchen, and roof improvements at the jail; additional space for the Juvenile Detention Center; space needs at the Weber Road Facility, especially if the 42nd Circuit decides to move its entire public defenders’ office to that location; road and bridge office replacement; Berry Road and the Berry Bridge; providing a location where county services can be offered in the northern end of the county; and back-up power generation to all buildings.
“One of the immediate needs we had was the jail roof. We had put that off for three years, and it was to the point that it was actually deteriorating the building. So we immediately got busy with replacing the roof and did that. One of the next things was replacing the road and bridge department’s office area. When we bought that facility, there was a little bitty greenhouse, or garage, out front that was big enough for one vehicle. That's where we put the office. So we took that down and built this very nice facility for our workers with the road and bridge. Remember, when we call out the road and bridge, it's in the worst weather, and so we need them to have a safe place to go to should that need arise. While you and I are hiding in the bathtub waiting for the tornado to blow over, these guys are out working, so we need a good place for them. So that's done, and we're very happy with that.”
Gallaher spoke about plans to move the county elections office to a more convenient location at the Weber Road Facility.
“When we bring the [county’s juvenile detention center] offices out of the Weber Road facility, we plan to move the elections officials to the office area up front where the JDC is now,” he said. “That will put them right there in the big rooms where all the election counting is done and all that. And people coming in to vote can register or do whatever they wish to do. It's right there by the door. So that I hope will help them a great deal.”
Gallaher addressed work now underway on the “air movement and air control” in the county annex building.
“Four, five, six years ago, the assessor's office was opening a large stack of mail [where county property owners] were getting in their assessment forms," he said. "White powder came out of one of the envelopes, so we instantly went in to lock them down. We evacuated the building and called in the fire department and the police. After a time, with proper testing, that white powder turned out to be positive for Parmesan cheese. Now, the envelope had the family's name on it. We got to checking, and it turns out that dad was filling out the assessment forms on one side of the table, and Mom was making pizza on the other side of the table — and we couldn't complain. We had no idea how that combination worked, but no harm, no foul. My point is that during this evacuation, one of the maintenance workers went inside and shut down all the fans. There was no control of the airflow, so if there were some contamination in that office, it would be spread throughout the building. That pointed out a need that we had for better air control of the building.
Gallaher brought up another problem caused by poor airflow in the annex.
“Lately, we found this last summer that we had to shut down on some of the hottest days because of the high temperature inside the building. People couldn't work. So we realized again that we need that better airflow. The air conditions were working. As a matter of fact, my office was cold, and the others were pushing 100 degrees. We needed better air control. So that's being done now.
Moving to the topic of improvements on Berry Road and the construction of a new Berry Bridge, Gallaher said, “The new bridge, we're getting it. We applied for a grant, a $2 million grant to help with this and help with the ARPA funds. And we were told that we would be notified after the first of this year whether or not we got the grant. Early in January, we were notified that we did indeed get a 1.825 million dollar grant. And so that threw us over the line of being able to say, ‘yes, the bridge is going in.’ “I want to point out that there's a bottleneck here. If you see the two 67 highway bridges — if one of those gets choked up, it quickly backs 67 highway up from the highway, and there's no detour around this site. It is not there. I've already decided we have another bridge that we can use to get that bottleneck straightened out and get it going again. So it's a big safety factor for all of us. There's really no way to go from Bonne Terre to anywhere north of there — St. Louis or anywhere — if that bridge is stopped up. So we have to build a bridge. This is an important factor for us. Development in Owl Creek Park — just Friday, we had a meeting with Fish and Wildlife and DNR about developing a walking trail. There's a grant being processed on that. And it's moving along, and it's gonna be a great asset.
Other improvements made possible by ARPA funds were the purchase of new and updated software; the digitalization of records in the county recorder’s office; the hiring of additional personnel in the prosecuting attorney’s office; new cameras, an intercom, and a general upgrade of electronics at the jail. Some projects are on hold until it's certain the funds are in place to cover the expenses.
"We've held a couple of projects back because we wanted to make sure we had the funding to do it," Gallaher said. "We've got about six active construction contracts going down. Don't know where that'll wind up. We think we do, but we're not sure. So to make sure that we're not overspending, we've held back the kitchen improvement in the jail, and we [backed] off this satellite building by Bonne Terre.”
"We would like to make part of that a nice place for the road and bridge crew to go in there on an icy night, and zap a sandwich, and go to the bathroom, and whatever they need to do. It would also be a place for the local deputies that are assigned to that part of the county where they can go in and do the same thing.”
According to Gallaher, there has been some consideration given to placing a fuel station there, so sheriff’s deputies won't have to drive back to Farmington to fill up their vehicles.
“That keeps those patrolling officers in that part of the county longer,” he said. “I hope that some of our elected officials will see the opportunity that they can maybe position two of their employees or whatever up there, and then people in the Bonne Terre area, in that northern part of the county, can go there to pay their county taxes and do that rather than go to Farmington. It would be an assist to those people in that part of the county to just move government closer to them. So we hope to do that. This is over time, and if money's there. We think it is, but we don't know yet. We don't spend money if we don't have it.
“The only thing I haven't approached is that very first item about space needs in the courthouse. I think that in short order, we're going to have to have some more room in the courthouse. We can't move the courthouse. We can't do anything else with the contract. The family that donated the space for that said if it ever stops being a courthouse, it stops being our property. It goes back to the family. But I think we need to look long-term at some kind of way to enhance the space in the courthouse and we're looking at that. I'm sure our needs list will grow with other items as time goes on, but you can see that the ARPA funds have been a great help for us.”
Gallaher stressed that no locally-generated funds have been used by the county to accomplish the many improvements that have been made over the last few years. The county has received more than $13 million in ARPA funds, along with around $8 million in grants in 2022 and approximately $15 million in grants in 2023, for a total of $24,614,363. In addition, the county has generated funds through tax revenue and fees, along with the leasing of various county-owned properties.
"Right now we're focusing everything on law enforcement improvement. It's hard to tell a deputy, they just gotta wear a body armor and wear a gun and do his job and then pay a minimum wage. That's difficult. So we've been able to increase our wages and hope to do that well and keep them better paid. It's hard to get applicants for these jobs. So we're doing better with the higher pay and we hope that increases as it goes.
Gallaher complimented a presentation made by Highway Administrator John Gross at a recent county commission meeting. In addition to new bridges, Gross mentioned the paving of a number of county roads and yellow striped last year.
Gallaher said, "Go back and see the website on that, and also it's written up pretty well in the Daily Journal and the Farmington Press."
Other county improvements mentioned by Gallaher in his presentation included the purchase of new trucks and vehicles; cleaning and "top-pointing" the courthouse and annex; upgrading of the county's payroll system, as well as updating county policies and manuals.
"Our county's debt-free," Gallaher said. "We don't owe any bonds, we don't owe any payments. We live on a tightly controlled and balanced budget. We don't spend money we don't have. And we are one of the very few Missouri counties to be debt free."
**Article by Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or email@example.com
Find the original article at: https://dailyjournalonline.com/news/local/gallaher-says-the-state-of-the-county-is-good
Park Hills - Leadington Chamber of Commerce
Tamara Coleman Executive Director
- February 28, 2023
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