By Mark Evans
Just when the Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce may be able to reopen the county license office is up in the air.
Executive director Dena Kreitler informed the Ste. Genevieve County Commission last Thursday, that one of the losing bidders has protected the awarding of the contract.
The frustrating part is that the company protesting, License Office Services (LOS) of Jefferson City, ranked last among the five applicants in the point ranking.
The chamber had concluded interviewing applicants for the two full-time license office positions.
“We had announced the hires, then were told we were being protested,” Kreitler said. “We had to halt everything.”
LOS is protesting in four areas, three of which, Kreitler said, are due to “their own negligence” in filling out the bid sheets.
One was in claiming that their main office was within 75 miles “as a crow flies” from the county. Kreitler said that is simply not true. The closest Jefferson City could be, “as a crow flies,” would be 81 miles.
All told, LOS is protesting just 18 points worth of items. That would not be nearly enough to elevate them from fifth place to first place among the applicants.
“It’s really sad,” Kreitler said. “We were on a roll. We had a great plan in place.”
They had hoped to be able to open within 45 days or so of the bid being awarded. Now the timetable will start over.
LOS, which has license offices all over the state, is protesting the awarding of four other offices, as well.
Kreitler noted that the office being run out of Jefferson City would lead to money not being put back into the local economy, which was one of the main reasons the chamber applied for the office.
“It’s an important part of our mission to give back,” Kreitler said.
“We don’t need another delay,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said.
The could feasibly be one, though. There is also the possibility that, assuming LOS loses the appeal, the firm could continue to file appeal after appeal, theoretically hijacking the process indefinitely.
Nelson later called District 116 State Representative Dale Wright, who had been instrumental in the contract finally being awarded.
Like Nelson, Wright saidhe was “stunned” that LOS would protest, when the number of points being challenged wouldn’t boost it to first place. He was also confident that things would iron out.
“I feel pretty good with everything,” he said. “We’ll win ultimately.”
Wright said he had spoken to the head of the Office of Administration (OSCA) and that he thinks “we can settle things in a week.”
Nelson thanked Wright for his help and called him “a great supporter” of the license office.
“We’ve got the right people on our side through the governor’s office,” Wright assured him.
WOODS, BOVA GO OVER COURT DETAILS
David Woods, St. Mary city manager, and Julie Bova, circuit court clerk, came in to discuss St. Mary resuming its municipal court system.
In December 2019 the city had passed an ordinance, eliminating its police department city prosecutor and municipal court. The same ordinance allowed for all cases to go to the 24th Circuit Court. The city of Ste. Genevieve had done the same thing. New state guidelines had made it virtually impossible for small towns to maintain their own courts.
However, this summer Carlton Wyatt was elected mayor in St. Mary, running on a platform of reestablishing the police department and prosecutor.
Bova told Woods the city would have to pass an ordinance, rescinding the December 2019 ordinances that had eliminated the court. Woods told her the city did soat a special meeting the night before.
Nelson was still skeptical.
“We do have a dog in this fight,” he said. “The fact that the upstairs is our courtroom. We have to agree to let things happen up there. Are you taking things out of that courtroom and back to St. Mary?”
“No,” Woods said. “We can never have court again. The minimum standards have just ruined it.”
He added that the city could never afford the required 30-hours a week for a police clerk and other new municipal court requirements.
The city recently hired Adam Bequette as police chief. Bequette has been applying for various grants and also turned in requests for federal Caronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act funding.
Nelson stressed that the city has to be “100 percent right with OSCA,” which is the state’s Office of State Courts Administrator, before he would consider giving the city any of the county’s CARES Act money.
“Everything he applied for is stuff you might need down there if he’s going to arrest people,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he understood that the city’s revenue had dwindled, an that the requested supplies would be needed if a jail cell is reestablished in St. Mary.
“He thinks he can rebuild and make that usable,” Nelson said of Bequette. “If you’re not good with OSCA and he doesn’t have the authority to write tickets at all, there’s no reason to do this.”
Nelson emphasized he was not criticizing Bequette.
“He knows a lot about policing, he said. “He knows a lot about writing grants. He’s pretty sharp.”
Nelson asked whether Bequette was doing it on his own, or if the city was officially applying. Woods replied that Bequette was working on his own, but that he was sure he had Wyatt’s backing on it.
“We’re not doing anything until we’re sure you’re 100 percent right with OSCA,” Nelson said.