The county adds another maintenance project to its list in the College Hills subdivision, FEMA vacates the courthouse, and the commission speculates what county liability insurance will cost them in the coming year.

1. County Commission plans to maintain cul-de-sac in College Hills subdivision

Alfred Chapman, who owns two lots in Nolte Court has requested Phelps County refurbish approximately 300 feet of the overgrown cul-de-sac that lead to the two lots, currently up for sale with an interested buyer. It was previously determined that the county did maintenance decades ago with a  blacktop surface. The prior condition of the road is poor, with remaining gravel, grass and young trees growing through and near the road in the road ditches. Commissioner  Randy Verkamp said if we have an obligation, we’ll take care of it.

Commissioner Larry Stratman agreed to view the cul-de-sac with Walter Snelson, superintendent of Roads to “see the best course of action.”
Mr. Chapman said he needed to know as soon as possible so he could move ahead with the sale of the property. “He’s not going to sign nothing until he gets something in writing, so he knows before he starts construction or whatever he wants to do,” emphasized Chapman.
With four houses currently in the cul-de-sac, Stratman said, “we maintained it to the last driveway on that road.” “This thing (the rest of  the drive) hasn’t been maintained in 25 to 30 years. There was very little need to do any maintenance back there—nobody lived there.”

There was some back-and-forth concerning the width of the original road that the county has agreed to maintain, which will include the chip-and-seal blacktop process. Mr. Chapman thought the road might be 24 feet and Commissioner Stratman thought the road might be 18 feet with 60 foot easements.
“We’re not going to replace ditches and re-do people’s driveways,” said Stratman. “If we get 18 to 20 feet there, we’ll be happy with that.”
“I want the road built that was the standard it was accepted at,” countered Chapman, explaining he just wanted to be honest with the prospective buyer that wants a lot on the cul-de-sac so he can use it’s width to back a motor home onto the lot. “I don’t know how big his motor home is, but he does.”
It was agreed to find the historical drawings to determine the original width.
“We’ll figure it out,” said Stratman.

2. FEMA vacates the courthouse after 100 days of occupancy

Federal Emergency Management Agency wrapped up their flood damage assessment and claims work in Phelps County and other counties that suffered property loss and damage during the 2017 spring flooding. FEMA used the skyroom free of charge on the promise the employees would be staying in Phelps County hotels and eating in local restaurants. It was not known how much revenue their presence generated in the county in lieu of their office space at the courthouse.
“We have to pay their internet bill,” said County Clerk Pam Grow. “And we paid the light and water bill.”
Commissioners Stratman and Gary Hicks mentioned that in a prior commission meeting, FEMA said they would pay for any extra costs associated with their operation, while in Rolla. It was noted that FEMA’s project manager for Phelps County had rented an apartment off of Forum and California Streets. Grow said the internet bill amounted to $140 per month.

“It was news to us in the courthouse that they were moving out,” said Grow, “because they had just lengthened their contract to the end of November.” “Then we were contacted that they wanted to have a walk-thru on Nov. 1.” According to Grow, all FEMA office equipment was gone by October 30.
“On Nov. 1, a lady from the General Services Administration and two other associates did a walk-thru with Peter Cook,” she shared.
Grow said Cook claimed there was nothing out of place and that it was left in good condition. Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp asked if anyone made an attempt to collect the money for the ancillary services. “He (FEMA project supervisor) said he sent it up the chain of command,” answered Grow.

3. Barker Phillips Jackson (BPJ) shares Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund (MOPERM) liability insurance survey comments

Dan Cavender a Rolla agent with independent insurance agency BPJ,  gave his speculative input about possible premium costs for liability insurance this coming fiscal year. His comments were based on a MOPERM survey that included county employment practices, law enforcement liability, jail operations, malpractice liability and cyber and information breach coverage. Cavender required commission approval signatures on the survey results which was done.
Agent Cavender shared he had received a letter from the home office saying national liability costs had gone up, which goes into determining state premium rates. “I found it alarming,” said Cavender. He said the bottom line with the letter is that a possible rate increase would be forthcoming, but he wouldn’t know until later. “It’s been a few years coming,” he added.
Cavender said the county could look at another company that handles large government entities, but once you leave MOPERM, you can’t return for five years. Commissioner Verkamp commented, “beware the lowball price, because then they’ve got you and you’re stuck.” According to the commissioners, the county is free to choose the best premium for the price.
In this particular program with MOPERM, if claims are low, a dividend check can be forwarded back to the county reducing the overall insurance premium cost. In 2016, Phelps County paid MOPERM $256,426—$56,526 for coverage on “buildings and inland marine” and $199,900 for liability coverage.

Commissioner Stratman asked, “When will we know what the dividend looks like?” Cavender said, “Late spring or early summer.” With the addition of some county property this year, it gives the county another six percent towards the dividend, of another $50,000 in coverage. Commissioner Hicks asked about the deductible.
“We’ve gotten that down to $5,000 now—for a long time, we were paying $25,000,” said Cavender.