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County starts process to build shelter for emergency equipment

Photo by Jay Forness

In the wake of recent natural disasters in the area, the Cape Girardeau County Commission approved a bid process to find an architectural and engineering service company to design a potential emergency management facility to store equipment indoors.

County Commissioner Paul Koeper brought up the idea of building a more secure location for emergency equipment such as generators, citing recent tornadoes in St. Mary, Fredericktown and Kentucky.

“I feel like we are susceptible to a disaster here of some kind, whether it’s a tornado or an earthquake – one of these days it’s going to hit,” Commissioner Paul Koeper said. “All of our equipment that emergency management has right now is susceptible to being damaged or blown away.”

Koeper said he would like the building to be a one-story emergency management center, where the department could be housed, equipment could be stored and meetings could take place with state or federal agencies in the event of a disaster.

“I think we need to at least take the first step,” Koeper said, adding that once the county has a preliminary design and estimated cost, the county will decide whether to move forward on the project. “I’m not saying it would happen in the near future, but if we don’t start somewhere, we won’t know what kind of building we are looking at.”

Koeper said the county would also be open for the City of Jackson and the City of Cape Girardeau to also store their emergency equipment in the potential building.

“If we do have a major disaster, our equipment could be blown into the next county, and we could be left with nothing,” Koeper said. “People are dependent on us and I think we need to stand up.”

Commissioner Charlie Herbst said the Black River Electric Cooperative had a similar issue with their equipment when the tornado went through Fredericktown last fall. “Their office building survived with little damage, but most of their equipment was outside,” Herbst said. “They didn’t have any trucks to go out and do the work.”

In other action:

• The commission approved a final budget for 2022, with minimal changes from the preliminary budget approved on Dec. 16. Cape Girardeau County Auditor Pete Frazier said the majority of changes from the preliminary budget were to add the actual balances remaining in the county’s funds at the end of last year.

At the end of 2021, the general county revenue fund had $5,246,696 on hand, thesheriff’s fund had a balance of $4,035,517, the road and bridge fund had $4,017,318 on hand and the assessment fund’s balance was $369,999. The capital improvement fund had a balance of $1,010,145 at the end of the year.

Budget requests for the county general fund total $9,673,134, which covers the operations of most county offices. The sheriff’s budget requests, which also include the county jail and 911-dispatch center, totaled $12,401,268. The road and bridge budget included $7,347,192 in expenses and the assessment expenditures are budgeted at $1,079,211 for 2022. The county is also expected to spend $4,983,500 in capital improvement projects this year.

• The commission approved the Cape Girardeau County Parks Department to apply for a Land, Water, Conservation Fund grant to help cover improvement projects in the two county parks.

The grant would help fund a new shelter/restroom at the Cape Girardeau County Veterans Memorial, as well as a new playground in the south county park and a new playground, restroom and shelter in the north county park. The total cost of these projects is estimated to be $690,000.

If the county receives the grant, $320,000 of the projects would be reimbursed. Park Superintendent Bryan Sander added that VFW Post 3838 has also committed to a $50,000 donation to help fund the Veterans Memorial project.

Sander said the grant application is due in the middle of February, but work would not start on the project until 2023 and the project would not be completed until 2024. “We won’t hear anything about the grant until at least June and we won’t get final approval until October, November or December,” Sander said.

The county was awarded the recreational trails grant last year to finish the trail around the south county park lake. Sander said work on that project, which includes 1,500 feet of sidewalk, will take place this summer. In addition, a restroom and shelter will be built on the north side of the lake near the current gazebo and parking lot.

• The commission approved a 2022 contract with Southeast Missouri Pets, formally known as the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, totaling $36,000 for animal control services. The organization also provides animal control services for the City of Jackson and the City of Cape Girardeau.

The contract amount for the county was $33,000 the past three years. The increase in the costs does not reflect the organization’s new building costs, as the funding goes toward operation costs.

Koeper said he hopes to negotiate longer contracts with Southeast Missouri Pets in the future, covering two or three years instead of the current one-year contracts.

• The commission approved the distribution of Domestic Violence Authority Board funds collected by the courts to the Safe House of Southeast Missouri. The $25,713 in funding collected through court fees are sent to the Safe House in two equal payments, one in January and one in July.

• The commission approved a $9,840 contract with A&W Communications of Eolia, Missouri, to help the county remove outdated radio equipment throughout the county.

“We were able to secure equipment at six of the seven sites, but now we need to move forward getting the equipment off of the towers,” Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler said.

The county is in the process of decommissioning its voter receiver communication system since the county has switched to the state’s MOSWIN (Missouri Statewide Wireless Interoperable Network) system.

Winkler said he was not sure when the work would be completed due to weather and scheduling concerns, but all the tower work would be completed in one trip by A&W.

• The commission approved the Cape Girardeau County Archive Center to apply for the Missouri Secretary of State’s Local Records Preservation Grant this year.

The grant would cover around $12,000 worth of shelves, which would fit in the existing metal shelving system. The archive center received the same grant last year, purchasing 233 new shelves.

“This year, prices have gone up as to be expected, so we would be able to buy fewer shelves but that would still put us closer to our mission of filling out unused space and providing additional support for boxes,” Archive Center Director Marybeth Niederkorn said.

Niederkorn estimates around 175 shelves would be purchased if the county receives the grant this year. No matching funds from the county are needed for the grant this year.

• The commission approved the purchase of two 2014 Dodge vans for use by the sheriff’s department. The two vehicles will replace a 15-passenger vehicle currently used to transfer federal inmates. The 15-passenger van will still be used for larger trips once the two smaller vehicles are delivered to the county.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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