Commissioners consider purchases, proposed Missouri election changes and hear Extension service update
The Ozark County Commissioners held their weekly meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, March 1, in their office in the upper level of the Ozark County Courthouse.
Paychecks, grader blades and telephones
Ozark County Presiding Commissioner John Turner told his fellow commissioners that the next county employee pay period will end March 10, and checks will be distributed then.
The next administrative matter concerned the commissioners’ need to purchase blades for the county’s graders. A legal notice announcing the acceptance of bids is running in this week’s Times. (See page 10.) The commissioners decided to extend the bidding period for two weeks to allow all area businesses interested in providing the county with the blades an opportunity to submit a bidding proposal. Bids will be accepted through 9 a.m. Monday, March 15. It’s anticipated that the commissioners will discuss the bids and choose a business to purchase from at that meeting.
Turner also said that the commission has decided to move forward with a phone system installation by Grennan Communication of West Plains. He said that Show-Me Tech will be installing the fiber internet lines first, which will happen soon, and the telephone system will likely be installed sometime after March 10, when the fiber internet lines are run through the basement of the courthouse.
“They’ve got to work with the court system, because drilling through these two-foot concrete walls makes a lot of noise,” Turner said, adding that the companies will likely be able to use existing drilled holes to run most of the wires and cables. “But there are a couple places that we’ll have lines that we hadn’t had before, and they’ll have to run the holes for those wires,” Turner said.
Proposed election changes in the state legislature
Turner and Ozark County Clerk Brian Wise, who is in charge of the county election process, say they’re keeping an eye on a few Missouri state government proposals concerning changes to the state’s election process.
One particular bill the county is interested in involves no-excuse absentee voting, meaning voters would not have to list an official reason, or excuse, for voting absentee rather than casting a vote on Election Day.
Normally, voters have to select a specific excuse on a list to receive an absentee ballot, including being out of the area, incapacity or confinement due to illness or religious objections. However, provisions were made last year to allow those who had contracted or were susceptible of contracting covid-19 to vote an absentee ballot and return it without getting it notarizing.
Those casting an absentee ballot for non-health-related reasons still had to have their ballot notarized before sending it in. The covid-related exemption expired at the end of 2020.
Supporters of no-excuse absentee voting argue that changing the process makes voting more accessible to particular demographics and reduces the cost of elections; they also say that “best practices” exist for preventing fraud and improving reliability.
Opponents to no-excuse absentee voting say that not requiring an official excuse increases the risk of fraud and may decrease voter turnout.
Another discussion currently happening at the state level involves a bill that would change the way elections are paid for and having the state foot a portion of the election bill instead of having the sole cost resting on the counties.
“There are times that there is very little at the county level, and so it’s basically a state election, and as it currently is, they don’t have to pay for anything,” Wise said.
Note: All the discussion during the commissioners meeting involved currently debated potential changes with the election process. Nothing has been voted into effect by the legislature yet.
MU Extension employees give an update
Missouri Extension office employees Taylor Young and Family Nutrition Education Program adviser Alicia Winrod, who work from the Gainesville office, attended the commissioners’ meeting to discuss projects the Extension service is working on.
Young gave each commissioner and the clerk a copy of Missouri Extension’s annual report outlining all the work the office had done over the previous year.
“Cally [Clayton], our secretary, did a really nice job of putting this together, to highlight the work the Extension has done in Ozark County,” Young said.
“This is really well put together,” Wise commented.
After a brief review of the annual report, Young asked the commissioners if the Extension office would consider providing Extension with their budgeted funds at the beginning of each quarter, rather than the end of the quarter, as it is doing now.
“It would really be a help… it’s really just an accounting thing for us,” Young said. “I don’t want to say we run in the negative, because we use one checking account, but we do have areas of money that are pulled out. And how we’re doing it now, we spend money that’s allocated for programing, and then reimburse that area when we get the check.”
“So [with the change], you’d be working with money that you have instead of money that’s going to be coming to you,” Wise said. “We’re totally fine with that.”
Young said incoming Missouri Extension Council members will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 11. The location of the ceremony hadn’t been determined at press time, but Young said they were hoping to use The Center or the Lions Club building for the installation. Wise agreed to conduct the swearing-in ceremony.
The council election was scheduled for Feb. 5-13 in area voting places. But Young told the Times Monday that last month’s bad weather caused a delay, and winners in the election will be announced a little later.
Winrod updated the commissioners on a cookbook project she’s working on with Bakersfield fifth graders.
“They made this in class,” Winrod said, offering the commissioners a dish of fresh salsa. “I brought the salsa and the recipe, so you can kind of see what they’re working on.”
Winrod said she’s also been working with Gainesville and Bakersfield students on a six- to eight-week nutrition program through the MU Extension office.
“At the end [of the nutrition program] they each got these little coolers,” she said. “In fifth grade, they learn a lot about food safety: clean, separate, cool, chill, thermometers, cooking until things are done… Anytime you can give a kid something like this, it makes them think about what they’re eating, how they’re eating. Every bit of it pulls them in. So when they made this salsa, you could see them light up. ‘I didn’t have to cook anything. I just chopped this stuff up, put it in a blender, added some ingredients.’ I mean, you get total buy-in from the kids then, and that’s when they really start learning. It’s pretty fun and rewarding when you can actually see their little lightbulbs come on.”
The next Ozark County Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, March 8, in the upper level of the Ozark County Courthouse in Gainesville. The meetings are open to the public.
To contact the commissioners, leave a message on their office voice mail at 417-679-4096 or contact individual commissioners: Presiding Commissioner John Turner, 417-989-0435 or email@example.com; Western District Commissioner Layne Nance: 417-683-7755 or firstname.lastname@example.org; and Eastern District Commissioner Gary Collins at 417-989-1442 or email@example.com.