A system now referred to as “archaic” has been changed after 80 years.
On Tuesday, the Franklin County Commission announced it will now be holding its four constitutionally mandated Term of Court meetings each year on Tuesdays instead of Mondays.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said the Term of Court meetings are from a time when county business was conducted by judges.
“We aren’t judges anymore,” Hinson said. “Plus, at the Term of Court meeting we usually just gavel in and gavel out.”
Hinson explained the Term of Court system was put in place in 1939 to ensure county judges met at least four times per year to conduct county business.
Today, the county commission holds weekly public meetings and the commissioners are full-time paid employees of Franklin County.
Add to that the increased daily responsibilities, administrative duties and the business of the multiple county departments which need to be addressed in a timely manner, the Term of Court system has been obsolete for decades.
“The state statute mandates the county commission has to meet four times a year on the first Monday of a month,” Hinson said. “There is no way we could possibly only meet quarterly.”
He added, if and when any business is conducted during the Term of Court meeting, it is business that can be put on the regular meeting agenda.
After consulting with County Counselor Mark Piontek, the commissioners have decided to hold the quarterly Term of Court, meeting in conjunction with their regularly scheduled meetings each week at 10 a.m.
Courts in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which are also required to hold Term of Court can do so more easily than the commissions since they have dockets every day of the week.
What They Do
Although they were full-time employees, until as recently as the 2000s the duties of the county commissioners were relegated to overseeing maintenance of county roads, which at the time were mostly gravel.
It wasn’t until the Pave the County program in the middle of that decade that the positions became more administrative, especially with the construction of the new government and judicial centers in Union.
The commission is directly charged with overseeing several county departments, including the departments of planning and zoning, building, health, purchasing, human resources and highways.
Commissioners also are responsible for appointing members to the numerous boards and commissions which represent the county and which help with its operations.
Some of the boards which members are appointed by the county commission include planning and zoning, the Highway and Transportation Committee, the county’s planning task force and the Franklin County Community Resource Board (SB40).
In addition to appointing various boards and commissions, the commissioners themselves also represent the county as members of different groups such as the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, Missouri Association of Counties and the National Association of Counties.
As the chief administrative body of the county, the commission is charged with approving various ordinances which establish laws governing the unincorporated areas of the county.
Commissioners set speed limits on county roads and pass laws concerning the use of county-owned property, for example.
The commission also controls the budgets of all county departments, reviews all bid proposals for projects such as roadway and bridge improvements, and for furniture, vehicles and supplies for the county’s many departments.
The commission approves liquor and auction licenses and the three-member body is responsible for authorizing purchase orders and the payment of bills.
Commissioners also must field citizens’ concerns and complaints.
The county commission also must approve rezoning requests and hears appeals of decisions made by the planning and zoning commission.
For example, appeals of decisions to grant conditional use permits for various land uses are considered by the county commission.
Commissioners are elected to serve four-year terms. The associate commissioners are elected by the residents of their respective districts and the presiding commissioner is elected by the entire county.
As presiding commissioner, Tim Brinker will earn approximately $74,189 in 2019 annually, according to the 2019 county salary list.
Associate commissioners Dave Hinson (2nd District) and Todd Boland (1st District) will earn about $72,046. The associate commissioners’ salaries, by law, must be $2,000 less than the presiding commissioner’s.