By MARK EVANS
While being introduced to and dealing with the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 took up much of local leaders’ time and energy in 2020, some long-awaited accomplishments were finally realized during the year.
PARK ESTABLISHED AFTER BILLS PASS
The year saw the final steps taken in the establishment of the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.
District 116 State Representative Dale Wright introduced a bill to convey Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the National Park Service (NPS). It was later incorporated in another house bill. Finally, the movement was capped Oct. 30, when U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, signed the paperwork that officially established the national park.
Meanwhile, Chris Collins was introduced in late January as the first permanent superintendent of the par in late January and assumed his duties here in the spring.
MUSEUM OPERATIONS ALSO WERE BIG EVENTS
Another long-awaited event was the opening of the Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center in the old Koetting Building on Market Street. it finally opened its doors in mid October. Meanwhile, its former venue, the historic 1933 museum building, was refurbished and made into a museum and art center/headquarters for the Sainte Genevieve Art Guild.
Another big event was the shutting down of McDonald’s in late February. The old restaurant, on Ste. Genevieve Ave., was then demolished and a new building constructed, complete with two drive-through lanes. It reopened in the summer.
OTHER PROJECTS GET ACCOMPLISHED
Some other projects too place, as well. One was the successful installation of an emergency valve near the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center to connect city water (provided by Alliance Water Resources) and county water (provided by Public Water Supply District No. 1). A Delta Regional Authority grant helped pay for the value, which paid off during an August water main break.
Levee District No. 3 also got a new Flygt PL7121 pump at the
pump house of the Urban Design Levee.
The city replaced a collapsing retaining wall on Washington and Fifth streets that had been discussed for some time. Plans were also approved for water/sewer replacement.
The county was only abler to pave one section of gravel road – Magnolia Hollow Road, but improved a dangerous curve on Saline Creek Road ab replaced culvert on Gillespie Road and did major repair work on the 116-year-old Franklin Bridge on the outskirts of St. Mary.
The long-awaited repair work on New Bourbon Port Road was also finally done, once right-of-way issues were cleared up.
Plans, meanwhile were ongoing all year to connect the community center and other amenities on the west side of Progress Parkway with the new River Rapids Waterpark.
Plans evolved from a walkway to an elevated pedestrian bridge with an elevator, then back to a crosswalk, thanks to voluminous government red tape.
Work was almost ready to begin as the year closed.
LOCAL CHANGES TOOK PLACE
Locally, the Ste. Genevieve Herald was sold by Ste. Genevieve Media, LLC to Better Newspapers, Inc., of Mascoutah, Illinois at the end of February.
Former owner/publisher Toby Carrig served as general manager until he resigned in June to fill the vacant position of director of tourism for the city of Ste. Genevieve. Mark Evans succeeded him as editor.
Other changes in personnel in the area included longtime Ste. Genevieve city administrator Martin Toma retiring and being replaced by Happy Welch in March. Ste. Genevieve County Memorial hospital CEO Tom Keim also retired, his position filled by Dr. Steve Pautler.
LICENSE OFFICE WAS CLOSED
For much of 2020, county driver had to go to neighboring counties to get licenses or plates renewed.
Wayne Grusling decided not to renew his contract with the state to run the office. It officially expired March 29. Grusling’s Vehicle Tax Services LLC had been operating the office since March 2016.
The office has been closed since March, due to the COVID-19 virus.
The Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce bid for the office, only to see the process drag on throughout the summer. Finally, in early September, the chamber was awarded the contract. A protest by the lowest-ranking of the five bidders, however delayed things an additional month.
The office is finally expected to open in early January at its new location at 753 Ste. Genevieve Avenue.
2020 WAS BIG POLITICAL YEAR
Politics were in the air throughout 2020, wit national, state and local elections drawing much interest.
Early in the year, lengthen Sheriff Gary Stolzer turned some heads, switching party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
During the summer, four candidates signed up for Second district Commissioner Joe Gettnger’s seat, Getting not being one of them. Democrats Tony Ritter and Micah Rouse and Republicans Don Kuehn and Randy Ruzicka all ran. Eventually, Ruzicka beat Ritter in the November general election. Meanwhile, in the First District Democratic primary, challenger Karen Stuppy knocked off incumbent Randy Bahr and did not face an opponent in the general election.
Republican challenger Robin Naeger also upended longtime County Public Administrator Mary Jo Ramer, a Democrat.
Meanwhile, Wright survived a GOP primary challenge from former Ste. Genevieve Alderman Bryant wolfing and won reelection in November.
The county voted overwhelmingly for the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, over Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the eventual winners.
Meanwhile, in St. Mary, incumbent Mayor Gloria Bader and former Mayor Carlton Wyatt finished in a 37-37 tie in the June 2 election – postponed from April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 30, Wyatt beat Bader, 58-45, in a special runoff election.
Bader, 80, died Nov. 26.