The St. Francois County Commission met Tuesday morning for the first time this year and covered a number of issues that ranged from hearing a quarterly report from University of Missouri Extension to learning of an “expletives deleted” email about the closing of Bone Hole County Park sent by a county resident to one of the commissioners.
In addition to all that, the county commission and county employees began the process of getting used to a new county clerk who is already making changes in the way business will be conducted at this and future commission meetings.
County Clerk Kevin Engler informed the commission that he was attempting to modernize the reporting of commission meeting minutes that will allow for more accurate information that will be more easily accessible to the public.
The first experiment, the recording of the commission meeting, met an early end as Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher sounded like he was speaking in an echo chamber for the first few moments of the meeting. The recorder was turned off, but Engler requested that commissioners be identified when making or voting on a motion during the meeting, so as to get used to the process when the meeting is recorded.
Additionally, Gallaher had a difficult time moving smoothly through his weekly PowerPoint presentation. He told the gallery that a solution would be found to both technical problems by next week’s meeting.
Once the meeting got underway, it turned out that the main topic of discussion dealt with the appointment of two commissioners to serve on the city of Park Hills’ TIF Commission.
According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, Local Tax Increment Financing (TIF) allows the use of a portion of local property and sales taxes to assist funding the redevelopment of certain designated areas within a community. Areas eligible for Local TIF must contain property classified as a "Blighted," "Conservation" or an "Economic Development" area, or any combination of the three, as defined by Missouri statutes.
The governing body of the municipality is required to establish a TIF Commission, composed of certain members including representatives of other local taxing authorities within the redevelopment project area as defined by state statute. The municipality is also responsible for the approval of ordinances — or resolutions of a county — that establish a comprehensive Redevelopment Plan, and for approval of the specific TIF Redevelopment Project.
Presiding Commissioner Gallaher said, “The TIF District in Park Hills has asked that they get two people to represent the county on that commission, and so, their suggestion was — since it is in Commissioner [Gay] Wilkinson’s district — to name him and me. I’m ready to make that recommendation.”
After the motion was made and seconded Gallaher asked if there were any questions.
Commissioner Wilkinson laughingly asked who recommended him to the TIF commission and Gallaher told him it was Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke.
Farmington attorney Vonne Karraker interjected, “Is that a quorum and is there a conflict of interest?”
Gallaher replied, “No, it’s their commission.”
Karraker focused on the voting process saying, “You’ve got one commissioner making and seconding and probably voting.”
Gallaher said, “We’re not voting on county business. We’re voting on TIF district business.”
Karraker replied, “If you’re addressing it, isn’t it still county business? It’s on your agenda.”
Gallaher asked, “Are we talking about the TIF district or something else?”
Karraker said, “I’m talking about the commission’s decision to vote to appoint two commissioners to the TIF commission. The county business of you voting on this.”
Wilkinson asked Karraker how else the appointments could be made.
County Clerk Engler broke into the conversation to offer an explanation.
“If the TIF district has previsions for two representatives appointed by the commission, most of the time TIF will have the presiding commissioner make that appointment, but I’m assuming [Gallaher] are wanting to do it formally for those who are going to be the representatives on that.
“The TIF district is almost 10 members and they usually say, ‘Two must come from the commission, two must come from the school district…’ Most of the time, depending on the wording of the TIF, they give the presiding commissioner the ability to appoint those two people. I don’t know how this one works.”
Karraker asked if, from a parliamentary perspective, it was right for a three-person commission to have one person make and second the motion and probably ends up being the one voting on it — "that doesn’t really sound right, is what I’m saying.”
Engler responded, “I get what you’re saying, but typically any type of — like a council — where you have people being appointed onto boards from within that thing, they are allowed to appoint them because that’s where the makeup comes from. But if they were appointing somebody to a paid position, you’d have a problem. Yes, they have the ability to just name them.”
County Treasurer Kerry Glore suggested someone could check into whether this was the correct procedure and the motion could be voted on at next week’s meeting, but Gallaher said there was a time limit that wouldn’t allow for that.
Answering why the TIF commission can’t make the selection of county representatives rather than the county commission, Engler explained, “It’s because they don’t want it to be loaded. Heck, if I was the TIF, I would want to appoint ‘em all so I could do whatever the heck I wanted. These are to protect the county’s interest in this tax. If you are withholding taxes from this county, they should have some protection — so, they have the ability to appoint someone who is going to protect their interest.”
The county commission voted unanimously to appoint Gallaher and Wilkinson to the Park Hills TIF Commission.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, Commissioner Patrick Mullins read an email he had received regarding the temporary closure of the Bone Hole County Park.
“I’m going to clean this up a little bit, so bear with me,” he said. “At 6:44 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, I received this email that reads, ‘What are you doing? You completely ruined one of my favorite fishing holes. Bone Hole access is nothing more than an access point to Big River. Why? Why do you intend to close it down? The Great State of Missouri has completely ruined most of what was great about this state and you, Patrick Mullins, are just a tick on the [expletive] of Missouri.
‘You successfully closed one of the best wintertime fishing holes around St. Francois County. And you probably have no idea why. What a freaking waste of Missouri taxpayer’s money and what a waste of useless time and money to pay you’re stupid [expletive] to make some [expletive] up to justify your position. You sir are a [expletive]!
‘Please email me or call me. I’d love to have a discussion with you. You completely ruined my plans for the Christmas weekend, thank you so much and I hope you and yours have a [expletive] Christmas.’”
Addressing the crowd, Mullins said, “The phone numbers are on the gate. If you just give us a call. We’re not closing the park down entirely. It’s going to be closed down for what we hope will be less than 100 days. If he had just reached out and called, we would have been glad to explain, but it’s this frustration … I just wanted to read this. Thank you.”
Finally, in her first appearance before the commission to present the quarterly University of Missouri Extension Update, Stephanie Schindler covered both past and upcoming events in the Housing and Environmental Design, 4-H Youth, Food and Nutrition and Livestock divisions of the program.
She also noted that Extension Council elections begin Jan. 18 and run through Jan. 28. Ballots are available at the extension office or online at extension.missouri.edu/stfrancois. The next Extension Council meeting is set for Jan. 29.