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New computer network coming to Cape County

The Cape Girardeau County Commission approved a purchase of $93,943 for new network switching and wireless equipment at most county buildings. Information Technology Director Eric McGowen said the project will allow the County to expand the use of networking equipment that was installed at the new Cape Girardeau County Courthouse and consolidated dispatch center last year.

“We have had absolutely awesome results with the equipment that we used at the courthouse,” McGowen said, adding it has increased security and speed compared to the rest of the county buildings.

The purchase will include 17 switches and 23 wireless access points across all county buildings not yet on the new system, excluding the former Cape Girardeau County Courthouse. McGowen said they will wait to add the new equipment at the old courthouse until the future plans for the building are made.
When asked what the new networking equipment does for security, McGowen said it goes “from a six to a 12.” He explained that the new networking equipment allows them to isolate corrupted computers making it easier to fix issues. “There’s a lot of functionality that this gives us,” McGowen said.

In other action:

• The commissioners reappointed Jane Wernsman as the Cape Girardeau County Health Center director. Wernsman said 2020 was a challenging year with CO-VID-19 contact tracing and vaccinations, but they tried to continue as much of their normal services as possible.
Most regular services were down in 2020, including the number of immunizations at the health center and rural health clinic attendance. Wernsman said this was mostly due to having to social distance and limit the number of appointments at any given time.

One service that remained steady or had a minor increase in 2020 was the center’s STD testing and treatment. “We might have been one of the only health departments around that was still continuing to provide that service,” Wernsman said.

Wernsman also spoke about how the number of flu cases in the county are “far less than what was reported at the same time last year.” She said this was due to the preventative measures that have been put in place due to COVID-19.

• The commissioners approved a grant application, as well as a request for bids,
for new shelves at the Cape Girardeau County Archive Center.

Archive Center Director Marybeth Niederkorn said the local records preservation grant from the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office would cover about 215 shelves, as well as installation costs.

“Right now we have some wasted space, and we have several boxes that are stacked two or three high, which is not ideal,” Niederkorn said. She added that this grant would be part of an ongoing project to add about 600 new shelves at Archive Center.

The county would receive a reimbursement of $14,629 from the Secretary of State’s Office if the Archive Center receives the grant. That would cover the labor and materials for the 215 shelves and no matching funds will be required from the county.

Niederkorn said she will be seeking additional grant funding over the next three to five years to complete the shelving project.

• The commissioners approved taking part in a U.S. flag collection program. The program is in partnership with the National Association of Counties and the National Flag Foundation.

The county’s flag retirement box has been placed at the Cape Girardeau County Administration Building’s main lobby. Flags should be folded respectfully before being placed in the box. Local Boy Scout troops will be responsible for the proper disposal of worn flags.

“This centrally located drop-off provides convenience while respecting our national symbol,” Commissioner Charlie Herbst said. “The county is proud to help our citizens to respect our nation while disposing of old or worn out flags.”

• The commission approved a recreational trails grant proposal to finish the trail around the lake at Cape Girardeau County Park South.

Park Superintendent Bryan Sander presented the grant, which will have the county contribute 40 percent of the projects cost. Sander estimates that the project will cost the county around $49,000 if they receive the grant.

• The commissioners rejected the only bid for tower removal and radio equipment installation. Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler said the bid fell short of the requirements for the proposal. Winkler said the county will go out for bids again after rewriting the request for proposal to be clearer on the project’s specifications.

The commissioners approved the highway department to be able to go out to bid for regular purchases including culverts, asphalt and road construction bids throughout the year.

The commissioners approved an emergency purchase of rock salt for the highway department. Commissioner Paul Koeper said the county ran out of salt during the recent snowstorms in the county. The county purchased 300 tons of rock salt for $34,500.

Koeper said the county was able to borrow salt from the City of Cape Girardeau, and some of the purchase will replace the city’s salt.

• Commissioner Koeper met with City of Jackson officials about County Road 435. The road is split down the center line between the county and the city. The Jackson city street is known as Harmony Lane.

Koeper said the current plan is for the city to obtain right-of ways and cover engineering costs, while the county will cover the construction work to widen the road. The street would then be transferred to the city.

• Representatives from Ameren Missouri spoke about the Limestone Ridge Project in front of the county commission on Feb. 22. The new line, which is scheduled to be in service by December 2023, is planned to connect a new substation in Perry County to a new substation in Cape Girardeau County.

The project will improve energy reliability and provide additional energy support to local manufacturing facilities. The final route has not yet been finalized, but the portion in Cape Girardeau County is expected to run parallel to existing lines.

The project is a partnership between Ameren, Wabash Valley Power Alliance and Citizens Electric Corporation. The Ameren representatives said they don’t need anything from the county at this time, but will request permission to build a line across county roads. They will also ask for coordination from the county’s highway department during construction.

• The commissioners approved the 2020 budget adjustments and financial statement. Budget adjustments were approved by the commission previously throughout 2020 or were interdepartmental line item adjustments.

• The commissioners appointed Scott Wren as deputy coroner. Wren was recommended for the position by Coroner Wavis Jordan.

• The commissioners approved the purchase of a tractor for the parks department for $50,930 through a state contract. The purchase will be made from the park’s equipment fund, as well as using funds previously used to lease a tractor.

• The commissioners approved the sale of two trucks from the county’s highway department.

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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