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911 Board reviews finances

St. Francois County 911’s board of directors recently approved their annual audit, heard an update on Ste. Genevieve 911, and reviewed its financial picture in light of its many ongoing projects.

Audit report

The board heard a clean audit report by Tammy Baronovic of Maloney, Wright & Robbins.

Members of the board governing the St. Francois County Joint Communications Center met in June to review the annual audit, get a big-picture look at its financial state and hear updates on the radio project. Pictured are Chairman Ron Bockenkamp, James “Jebo” Bullock, Ginger Taylor, Tim Porter, and Center Director Alan Wells.

“So basically, we’re saying that you got a clean opinion and all material respects, and your financial statements are fairly stated. So that’s as good as you can get from us,” she said at the top of her brief presentation at the beginning of the meeting.

Board Member and Finance Committee Chairwoman Ginger Taylor said it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the new requirements for audits, and she congratulated Baronovic for her diligence.

“You know the auditing world has changed so much,” Taylor said. “There are so many new compliances that you have to follow. And it’s a lot of work to pull something like this together, especially in the governmental world, I know. It’s a lot different than it used to be 10-15 years ago, I can tell you that.”

The 911 Center’s director, Alan Wells, jokingly asked Baronovic if the audit meant they had money to spend. She said it did.

The center is spearheading a sizable overhaul of its operations in the coming months, building new towers, replacing some towers, and incorporating new technology.

Wells thanked Taylor, 911 Deputy Director Chuck Farr, and Office Administrator Casey McCarty for working with the Farmington accounting firm on the audit.

Financial picture

In her committee report, Taylor reiterated that the center was more than solvent, but a lot of hefty expenses were coming, and the sales tax passed in 2021 would be crucial in paying for the massive project.

“There’s going to be a lot of money, you know, exiting our coffers before we know it,” she said.

Sales tax, Taylor said, continues to “hold its own,” with collections in May of $335,000. She said that number is down from $342,000 in May 2022, and $372,000 in May 2021, “so we are starting to see a little bit of a reduction compared to COVID years.

“COVID years, you would think would be lesser, but that wasn’t the case. Everybody was not working so they were all home, doing home construction projects. There was a large increase in construction business and a lot of sales tax on materials and plus the cost of those items were up quite a bit,” she said. “… Now, people have run out of money. They had a lot of stimulus payments, and they had other reasons why they had more cash and so they could do more, and now you see more people with a lot less cash. So this inflationary period is really starting to affect the population. You’re starting to see results from that.”

Taylor reminded the board that if the sales tax from more than 10 years ago hadn’t been started and then solidified by voters in recent years, the 911 center wouldn’t be able to provide the services it does. Currently, the center has $6.3 million in the bank and a $487,000 surplus, but she warned, “don’t count our chickens before they’re hatched.”

“And you’re correct in pointing that out, because a good portion of that is obligated,” said Board Chairman Ron Bockenkamp.

“We’re ahead of the game right now, and that’s a positive thing,” Taylor said. “And I think we’re maintaining control over what we’re doing, we have enough people in place that are doing what they’re supposed to be doing… I think we’ve got a lot of oversight, which is good to communicate to the community.”

Radio project

Board member and Big River Bonne Terre Fire Chief Dave Pratte said a group of fire departments was planning to work together to get a grant to upgrade their radios and intended to meet to work out the details.

“Wolf Creek [Fire Department] has agreed to host the meeting and we plan to see where we’re at with that. We’re trying to get all the departments to provide their information for the grant, and it’s moving a bit slow, but it’s coming along,” Pratte said.

The 911 Center’s budget has included help with the grant.

Wells said the consulting company for the radio project, Rey Freeman Communications Consulting, is working through the red-tape aspects of securing additional sites for radio towers.

In other business:

  • Wells reported they were moving forward with a federal Homeland Security grant that would allow them to add components to the mobile command bus that is used for broad-scope emergencies and disasters.
  • According to Wells, May’s call load has increased, possibly due in part to the addition of Iron County to its service region but also because the summer months mean people are more active, and more tourists are engaged in outdoor activities in the Parkland. There were 13,813 calls for service, averaging 446 each day. Total 911 calls for service in May were 4,663 or 146 each day. There were 707 cleared warrants and records and there are 9,346 active call warrants in the system.
  • Wells said they are looking into expanding the tight parking lot at the center and researching a regular upgrade to the 911 phone system and the CAD system. He said it’s standard to upgrade systems every 6-10 years.
  • The center partners with St. Francois County and the city of Farmington every three years on aerial maps, and that project will be done again this year.
  • Wells said Ste. Genevieve 911’s sales tax issue, successfully passed this year, has yet to collect taxes to help pay for the services St. Francois County 911 provides, but it is expected to bring in about $100,000 a year. Wells said the new board overseeing the Ste. Genevieve 911 Center – the board being necessary since it is now a taxing entity, instead of solely reliant on landline phone fees – is appointed and has been meeting.

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