The Cape Girardeau County Commission will host a public hearing at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, on the possibility of adding a county medical examiner and eliminating the coroner position.
“It’s been an option since the county became first class in 1997,” Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said. “We’ve had some professional inquiries and some citizens’ groups come to us and ask us about the possibility of implementing a medical examiner and the benefits, so we are going to open that discussion up to the public.”
Prosecuting Attorney Mark Welker, First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Angel Woodruff and Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case Squad Commander Don Perry asked the commission to look into adding a medical examiner position in February.
They advised that a medical examiner would be able to help them investigate and prosecute violent crimes in the county. While a medical examiner is required to be a physician by state statute, coroners only have age and residency requirements.
Medical examiners are appointed by county commissions, whereas coroners are elected officials. If the county were to decide to switch to a medical examiner, the change would be made at the end of Coroner Wavis Jordan’s term on Jan. 1, 2025.
A medical examiner is expected to cost the county more than the current coroner position, which was why the county commission decided to continue with the coroner system with Cape Girardeau County became a first-class county in 1997.
Woodruff said in February that the county could contract out services to nearby counties, which would offset some of the additional costs related to a medical examiner.
The discussion comes as Jordan has seen increased scrutiny in his role as coroner. In June, Welker asked the state attorney general’s office to serve as special prosecutors in a case where Wavis was a suspect for an alleged theft that took place in April at the scene of an unattended death.
In addition, Dana Town-send from Crain Funeral Home spoke to the commission in August about an issue they had with the coroner’s office. Townsend spoke about an instance where a diseased woman was still in the care of the coroner’s office after more than a month.
Townsend said the funeral home was asked by the coroner’s office to move forward with an indigent burial for the deceased, but they knew of a potential next-of- kin for the woman who had not yet been contacted by the coroner.
“It’s still a coroner’s case and it doesn’t really have anything to do with me, but I’m here because she’s still sitting in the coroner’s office and [Jordan] isn’t doing anything,” Townsend said to the commissioners.
Townsend also said there were multiple discrepancies in the information they were given, including the deceased’s date of birth and date of death. Tracy said they would advise Jordan to contact the potential next of kin.
In other action
• The county will host a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, for the new Cape Girardeau County Emergency Operations Center, which will be located at 3555 Veterans Memorial Drive in Cape Girardeau.
The $4.8 million construction project is being completed by Sides Construction. The project is being mostly funded by the county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, with additional funding coming from the county’s capital improvements fund.
The new EOC building will be around 7,000 square feet and will include administrative offices for the county’s emergency management employees, meeting space that can be utilized by state and federal agencies during a disaster response and storage space for emergency management equipment such as generators.
Emergency Management Director Sam Herndon said the footings have already been poured for the new building. In addition, work on precast panels for the building is underway and are expected to be completed in November.
In the event of rain, the groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
• The commission approved its annual contract for $115,200 with Cape County Private Ambulance Service. Commissioner. Charlie Herbst said the price remained the same as last year’s contract.
• The county received a $61,800 grant from the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s Crisis Intervention Program to add an additional mental health counselor for inmates at the Cape Girardeau County Jail.
• The commissioners signed a proclamation marking October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 2022, law enforcement in the county received 1,763 calls of reported domestic violence. In addition, the Safe House of Southeast Missouri received 785 hotline calls and provided shelter to 127 adults and 85 children last year.
• Cape Girardeau Collector Barbara Gholson announced the results of the county’s land tax sale on Aug. 28. There were delinquent tax certificates from 31 properties that were up for sale, and 18 of the tax liens were sold to 12 different buyers.
Gholson said the county received $49,651 more than the unpaid delinquent taxes during the sale. She said the oversurplus is turned over to the county treasurer until it can be used during a redemption process or is released to owners or lienholders.
• The commission approved budget adjustments for the sheriff department and the building and grounds department to allow for additional staff members.
The sheriff department plans to add two certified officers and four civilian officers to the Cape Girardeau County Jail. The sheriff’s budget was adjusted by $51,000 to cover the cost of the six positions through the end of the year.
Sheriff Ruth Ann Dicker-son said the additional positions at the jail are to prepare for the increased capacity of the jail when the new expansion opens in December 2024. Dickerson said the department already has training sessions scheduled for next year to help the new staff members be prepared when the jail addition opens.
The building and grounds department will add one full-time position due to new projects for the department. The department’s budget was adjusted by $8,000 to cover the cost of the new position through the end of the year.
• The commission approved the purchase of a new flatbed truck and bed, to replace a truck used by the highway department. Commissioner Paul Koeper said the $123,909 truck would most likely not be delivered to the county until late 2024.
The commission also approved the purchase of five vehicles for the sheriff’s office. The county purchased three 2020 Dodge Chargers and two 2020 Ford utility vehicles, all from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
• The commission approved a contract with Flock Safety for new security cameras for the sheriff department. Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson said the cameras would be used for investigations. The contract has an initial cost of $18,450, with a reoccurring annual cost of $9,000 starting in its third year.
• Residents on County Road 603 asked the commissioners on Oct. 19 for guidance on how to get the remaining section of gravel on the county road paved. The county has paved the north and south end of the road, but 0.4 miles of County Road 603 remains gravel.
Resident Bill Stone said they knew that some residents on the road have not submitted easements for the paving, but it wasn’t fair that a portion of the road was paved in front of property where the owner of both sides of the road didn’t sign easements.
Tracy said some of the paving on County Road 603 was done because paving equipment was already nearby and they were able to fit a portion of the road into another paving project.
The county typically requires all property owners to submit easements for the county to do the construction work before a county road is paved. “When you have one person on the road holding up the pavement, that is the downfall of this model, but it’s the best model we have,” Tracy said.
Koeper said that the county is unable to pave as many roads as it used to due to the rising cost of asphalt. He added that there is a Citizens Electric utility pole along the gravel section that would need to be moved.
Several residents said they would allow for larger easements if their neighbor across the road wouldn’t agree to an easement. Tracy said that would help to get the road paved.
Tracy added that any hazards currently on the road would be fixed by the highway department and do not require easements.
• The commission approved a $33,618 bid from Edward J. Rice Company to design and mail the county’s assessment lists. Assessor Bob Adams said the bid was virtually identical to last year’s bid, and they were the sole bidder for the project.
Adams added that the county has to mail fewer assessment lists every year, due to the increase of citizens who file online. “Last year we led the state in online filings,” Adams said. “We are now at 51 percent, and we’re proud of that.”
• The commission approved up to $20,000 for Citizens Electric to cover an easement and to add an electrical line to the new Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN) communications tower, located 125 Buffalo Lane in Cape Girardeau.
Herndon said all the equipment for the project has been installed and they are only waiting on electricity before the radio equipment is functional. He estimated that the easement will cost the county around $5,000 and the new electrical line will cost around $10,000.
• The commission approved a motion for tax revenue from the Marijuana sales tax that passed in the April 4 election to be added to the county’s general revenue fund.
• The commissioners set the rate for new displays in the Cape Girardeau County Park’s holiday light display. New displays will cost $100 and participants will be responsible with putting up and taking down the displays.
Prior display commitments that included the county storing and installing displays will still be honored, according to Parks Superintendent Bryan Sander. He added that the parks department is planning on adding more displays, entrance lights, floats in the lake and lighted tunnels this year.