Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said he is looking forward to taking on several projects this year.
“We’re hoping that our revenues come back where we can do a little more with road and bridge,” Griesheimer said.
In a Monday interview with The Missourian, he also spoke about some of the larger accomplishments of 2012.
The county refinanced about $39 million
in debt last year, saving taxpayers $4.7 million, he said. The debt is on the new government building, judicial center, renovation of the old courthouse and the Pave the County program, he noted.
This year, he is looking forward to the county completing the remodel of the former prosecutor’s office into the new Franklin County Department of Health for $350,000 to $400,000.
Establishing the Franklin County Municipal Court to handle traffic violations and issues related to building codes and zoning was another accomplishment, he said.
The new court will help take some of the cases off the circuit court’s docket, he noted.
“We felt it would be easier if we handled our own zoning and building cases ourself versus having to go through the circuit court,” Griesheimer said.
However, the county municipal court is currently being challenged in a lawsuit filed by a group of county residents who argue that it was unconstitutionally created.
A court ruling that resulted in the county no longer being able to collect sales taxes on out-of-state vehicle sales continues to hurt the county’s revenue, he said. Griesheimer noted that the county can also no longer collect sales tax on personal vehicle sales.
Currently, Griesheimer estimates, that the county is losing $250,000 to $500,000 a year from not collecting the sales tax.
But he noted that there could be a bill coming forth in the Missouri General Assembly to allow the county to once again start collecting that sales tax.
If such a bill does not come about, the county may ask voters to approve a use tax in the April 2014 election, he said. A use tax could recoup lost revenue from out-of-state vehicle sales, he said.
This year, Griesheimer is also hoping to get credit card terminals in more county departments and create a system for people to pay property taxes online. This will bring more convenience for taxpayers, he said.
He also looks forward to moving ahead on the Labadie Great Streets project, which is a $1 million effort to improve drainage and aesthetics along the Front Street area in downtown Labadie. That project is scheduled for a spring completion.
Replacing the Bend Road bridge in eastern Franklin County is also another goal as it is considered the worst bridge in the county. Replacing it is estimated to cost about $5 million with most of the cost proposed to come from the federal government.
Accomplishments From 2012 Were:
• Adopting a new invocation policy for county commission meetings. The county adopted the new policy after being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU lawsuit alleges that Griesheimer led prayers mentioning Jesus.
• Budgeting a one-time $700 bonus for employees last year. Only a select number of county employees are proposed to get raises this year, mainly those in the assessor’s office and recorder of deeds office. Some highway department workers are also getting length of service raises under their union contract. Griesheimer said this week that if unexpected revenue comes up this fiscal year then raises for other employees will be considered. The county is currently reviewing its pay plan.
• Increasing the computer technology contract to provide a full-time worker for computer problems instead of part time.
• Adding billboards to planning and zoning regulations. Prior to that there were no rules regarding those signs in the county. Now there are specific regulations dealing with size.
• Hiring an engineer for the highway department.
• Adopting a new county master plan, which has been in the works for three years. It replaces the 2001 version.
• Coordinating meetings with the sheriff’s office, information technology department and vendors to complete integration of the 911 dispatch system.
• Working with County Assessor Tom Copeland to put in place a new system for assessing personal property. The new system uses the vehicle identification number to more accurately identify vehicles so they can be properly assessed, according to Copeland.
• Working with the county auditor and county clerk to buy new accounting software.