By MARK EVANS
Getting back to normal seems to be the goal for 2021.
Garry Nelson, Ste. Genevieve County presiding commissioner, listed a handful of priority goals for the county.
“My main goal is to get back on our paving policy,” he said. “We had to back off of it last year because we were skeptical about revenue coming in.”
The county traditionally shot for paving 20 miles of gravel road each year. The closest it came was 18.3 miles in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, continued storms and flooding, compounded by some equipment failure, severely curtailed the amount paved.
In 2021, the pandemic did the rest. Only a stretch of Magnolia Hallow Road was paved.
Less money is available from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for bridge work this year.
“MoDOT’s already taken money out of our bridge funding, so a couple of low-water slabs we looked at doing this year probably will have to be on the 2022 budget,” Nelson said.
No. 2, Nelson said, is to continue to work smoothly with the city of Ste. Genevieve.
“I still want to work close with the city,” he said. “My mind set is 25 percent of the county residents live within the city of Ste. Genevieve and they are county residents as well.”
Third would be “getting the health department stabilized again.” He said that is “one of my big priorities.”
Both of the new associate commissioners agreed with his selections – especially the health department.
“Our health department is a very vital department within the county,” First district Commissioner Karen Stuppy said. “It does so many things … There’s no way I’m going to let any kind of financial situation keep the health department from having its doors open. I will do whatever I can to get them moving in the right direction, financially.”
Second District Commissioner Randy Ruzicka agreed, calling “to get the health department back on track” as a priority.
“It looks like we’re on a pretty good path,” he said. “We’ve got some new leadership there, so that’s encouraging.”
Nelson’s fourth goal is shepherding in a “smooth transition” with Holcim Concrete coming onto county tax rolls. The Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) that Holcim has paid as part of its Chapter 100 agreement, has helped support various entities within the county. Concern has been expressed by many of them over what will happen if LaForge-Holcim challenges its assessment and taxes are not paid right away.
“I hope we can work together and come up with a good transition that we’re all happy with,” Nelson said.
“Let’s make it a smooth transition, and move on,” Stuppy added.
Stuppy also added “making sure we keep our employees healthy and the public healthy” during the pandemic as a priority goal.
“Our county is basically in pretty good shape just continue to keep it on that path,” Ruzicka said. “I hope that ’21 is a better year than ’20, as far as COVID and all the related side effects go.”
Nelson added that the county has “solid balances in its budget” from 2020 and wants to get the 2021 road and bridge and general revenue budgets hammered out right away and to make sure both are balanced.
He also said he wants to continue to make manpower and equipment available to the cities of St. Mary and Bloomsdale for help, when needed.
Nelson also wants to work with the Industrial Development Corporation, the city and other entities on the plans being discussed to develop a new subdivision in Ste. Genevieve.
“One of the best things we can do for economic development in the county is to provide more hosing,” Nelson said. He noted that five of the county top employers have to get the bulk of their workforce from outside the county.
“We’ll help any way we legally can,” he said.