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Government and business transitions in 2005

It was a relatively quiet transition when a woman whose roots are firmly planted in St. Francois County soil became the chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, but for Marge Schramm it represented two more “firsts” for which she could be listed.

For Schramm, who grew up southeast of Farmington, “firsts” are not that important. Still, she became the first woman to chair the commission and the first St. Francois County native to hold that post. Two other significant marks on her permanent record are that she was the first woman to serve on the Kirkwood City Council in 50 years and was that city’s first female mayor.

Though Kirkwood is her official place of residence, Schramm and her husband still spend much time on the farm where she grew up near Libertyville. She makes it quite clear she has a deep fondness for both her St. Louis County home and her rural residence in St. Francois County.

There were other significant transition in government this year, particularly in this area’s representation in the Missouri General Assembly.

Elected officials

Former Farmington mayor Kevin Engler became the first local man to represent the 3rd District in the Missouri Senate. Engler, a Republican, defeated Dan Ward in the 2004 general election to become the man representing what was formerly the 20th District of the Senate – a task performed for five terms by the late Danny Staples.

When Engler and Ward chose to run for the Senate, that left their old House seats up for grabs. In January, two new House members from this region took their oaths of office in Jefferson City. Steve Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, became the new representative for the 106th District. Brad Robinson, a Democrat from Bonne Terre, became the new representative for the 107th District.

The death of Assessor Damon Black in May left that post open for appointment. It was Curt Boyer, a Republican, who was recommended by the St. Francois County Republican Central Committee, who Gov. Matt Blunt – also a Republican – selected to succeed Black.

Some retire

Larry Hughes chose to retire as Bonne Terre city manager in August. Hughes had previously served as city administrator for the cities of Park Hills and Desloge and was an assistant administrator in Farmington.

With the retirement of Hughes, Ron Thomure was selected to succeed him in Bonne Terre. Though still a resident of Farmington where he once served as city administrator, Thomure was the public works director for Pevely when hired by Bonne Terre.

Another city administrator, Greg Beavers of Farmington, made news when he returned to his duties there after more than a year of absence. Beavers was called up to serve with his U.S. Army Reserve unit in Iraq.

Another change in local government came with the retirement of Fred Mallow as chief of the Bonne Terre Police Department. Mallow had been a member of the department for 25 years and was chief for the last 11 years. Doug Calvert, a 12-year veteran of the department, was named interim chief and later in the year was given the permanent appointment.

New city halls

The city of Desloge moved its administrative offices into the new city hall on Lincoln Street this year. It had purchased and renovated the former Miners Lumber Company property for that purpose. It was also announced late in the year that this move would make it possible to double the size of the Desloge Public Library, which shared the building that formerly served as city hall.

In Bonne Terre, the city is looking at the old Bonne Terre High School as a possible site for its city hall. This became a possibility when, after constructing a new elementary school at another location, the North County School District sold the former campus to a private developer.

Others retire

It was like the end of an era when Dr. Jim Hart announced he would not seek reelection to the Mineral Area College Board of Trustees. The pharmacist from Farmington had served 30 years on the board when he retired from that post.

Though his office was located two hours away, for many it was like losing a valued friend when Scott Meyer resigned as district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Meyer had headed the MoDOT operations in Southeast Missouri for several years and worked closely with local officials on numerous major highway improvements. He resigned from MoDOT in May to accept a position at Southeast Missouri State University.

Water battles

It appeared at one point this past year that the legal battle between the cities of Desloge and Park Hills over the water system might be coming to a close. There was a public announcement of some upcoming negotiations and Desloge delayed engineering on its new water system because of the development. Since then, however, Desloge has moved on with steps to establish its own water system and there have been no further indications that a settlement might be near.

Sales tax

Voters overwhelmingly approved a one-half cent sales tax for the operation of the St. Francois County Ambulance District in April. The new sales tax will allow the district to eliminate its property tax levy, which generated about one-fourth the revenue that is anticipated from the sales tax.

Four months after voters had expressed their trust in the district, the Ambulance District was honored as the Emergency Medical Service of the Year by the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association. The award recognized the performance of the district and its personnel over the past year.

The county’s voters were not as agreeable on the matter of a quarter-cent transportation sales tax proposed by the County Commission. That sales tax, which would have been devoted in great part to the upgrade of U.S. 67, was defeated at the April election. That tax was a separate issue from the sales tax used for the maintenance of other county roads.

Business changes

There were also many development on the business scene in St. Francois County during 2005, some good and some not so pleasant.

After months of uncertainty, the employees of the Flat River Glass Plant were able to give a sigh of relief in late October. Earlier in the year, The Glass Group, owners of the plant, announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Through months of court proceedings and several potential sales of the plant to different prospective buyers, it was announced in late October that the sale to Gujarat Glass Ltd. had been finalized.

The new owners based in India have indicated that operations will continue and that improvements to the factory that has been in operation for more than 30 years are planned.

There was disappointment when efforts to locate a new business in Farmington that would employ as many as 600 people fell through, but there was still good news to come. In mid-October, city officials announced that Accent Marketing Services would locate an inbound call center in Farmington. The new operation, which has already begun the hiring process, could eventually employ as many as 450 people.

The Switzerland-based Holcim corporation announced in November that it will proceed with construction of a $600 million cement plant in northern Ste. Genevieve County within a few months. Delayed since 2000 by environmental issues, the company has finally received government clearance for the plant that will employ approximately 200 people. It is estimated there will be about 1,200 people employed for construction of the plant.

It was announced in January that Lee Enterprises would be purchasing the Daily Journal as well as all other Pulitzer, Inc., newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Iowa-based publishing company which owns newspapers throughout the country completed the deal to buy the Pulitzer newspapers a few months later.

Though small in scope when compared to some of the college’s other programs, the Missouri Police Corps training program had gained widespread acclaim.

With word that the federal government would no longer fund the program, Mineral Area College announced this month the Missouri Police Corps was being terminated. The program, which moved to MAC in 1998, has had more than 100 graduates from around the country. It was housed in the former Highway Patrol satellite facility on U.S. 67 across from the main MAC campus.

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