Approximately 20 people, many of them county officials, attended a rare night meeting of the Phelps County Commission Tuesday night at City Hall.
Not only was it unusual for the commission to meet in the evening, it was also out of the ordinary to see the commission meeting at a place other than the Courthouse in Rolla.
"April is National County Government Month, and we're going on the road," Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said at the opening of the meeting.
The outreach meetings will continue each Tuesday night this month and even one Tuesday in May as the commission meetings in the other incorporated cities—Edgar Springs, Newburg, Rolla and St. James—in the evenings to give people who can't attend the Tuesday and Thursday morning meetings to meet with commissioners.
Verkamp said the commission might try the evening meetings again next spring if county residents find the outreach useful and interesting.
Not many Doolittle residents showed up, perhaps indicating that Doolittle residents are happy with county government and have no issues to discuss.
It was a regular meeting of the commission, and the commissioners conducted business after Verkamp's opening remarks and a recitation of the pledge of allegiance, led by Mayor Paul Smith.
In business or discussion:
The commission voted to solicit propane bids for the highway department building, the Courthouse and the jail.
The commission also decided to solicit bids for the repair of the concrete setps in front of the Courthouse.
County Clerk Carol Bennett presented the commissioners with a letter from the State Tax Commission authorizing expenditures.
Bennett also reported on a $20,000 disaster preparedness grant administered by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission.
Rolla Rural Fire Protection District's annual financial report was received and briefly reviewed. All districts must file such reports by May 1.
Bennett reported that candidates for county offices must now show they have no real estate taxes due when they file for election.
County Assessor Bill Wiggins presented an analysis of bids for a computer program used in assessments. Action was tabled until the Thursday meeting.
Mayor Smith gave a brief update on his city, noting that there is a spirit of cooperation between the city, the rural fire board and the Newburg school board. That sharing makes public business move more smoothly, he said.
He noted the construction of a new Dollar General store is progressing, and the Old Towne Antiques complex is attracting more people to Doolittle.
"We are a very accommodating area and a very peaceful area," he said of the community of 648 people.
Many public officials spoke briefly about their offices, updating the mayor and Doolittle residents about county government.
Associate Circuit Judges Ron White and Ken Clayton talked about the changes being made to make cases move faster.
Prosecuting Attorney John Beger briefly sketched out the work of the grand jury.
Capt. Rick Hope told about the Phelps County Sheriff's Department's move to a digital radio system that will keep officers in touch with Central Dispatch, even if they are out of their cars in the farthest reaches of the county. He also spoke about the electronic records management system that allows more and quicker sharing of information between agencies.
Wiggins said he is looking for county residents who fit a new law that waives real estate taxes for 100-percent disabled military men and women who also were prisoners of war.
County Treasurer Carol Green distributed free prescription medicine cards, available to all county residents, and lists of unclaimed property.
County Recorder Robin Kordes said her record-keeping is up by 200 recordings for the first quarter. She also noted that Monday marriage license requests are up, with an average of three filings weekly. She also noted a county surplus property sale will occur next week.
Circuit Clerk Sue Brown and County Collector Davis Haas spoke briefly about the workings of their respective offices.
Karen Clancy, representing the University Extension, said she goes to all schools in the county provide nutrition information. Other Extension employees, who have offices in the basement of the Courthouse, have other areas of expertise available to the public.
District 1 Commissioner Larry Stratman explained the Adopt-a-Road program. He also noted that trash dumped on county roads will be picked up free.
District 2 Commissioner Gary Hicks said residents should also report potholes on county roads.
Just before Bennett spoke, Verkamp announced it was her birthday, so the audience sang "Happy Birthday." Bennett reported on the offices decided by write-in votes in this month's election. There was a tie for the Duke rural fire board; it will be decided by lot at 8 a.m. Friday. A tie in Edgar Springs will be decided by a special election on May 21. Bennett also reminded the audience of the June 4 special election for the Eighth District U.S. representative's office.