City council officially transfers municipal court to circuit court

by Mark Cheffey

The Palmyra City Council Thursday took official action to dissolved the municipal court and transfer it to the Marion County Circuit Court.

In other action, the council awarded bids for street overlays, hired a new city attorney and selected an engineering firm to assist with a Community Development Block Grant application for bridge funding.

The council was unanimous in taking emergency action to move the functions of the municipal court to the circuit court, approving the required ordinance after just one reading. 

The council has been planning to make the transfer for some time, but was forced to take quick action after P. Eric Bond, recently resigned as judge forcing the Marion County Circuit Judge to be required to hear municipal cases.

It was also noted the COVID-19 pandemic had caused scheduling problems, making it impossible for the circuit judge to fill in during the regularly scheduled municipal court dates.

The council originally decided to transfer the municipal court to the circuit court as a cost-cutting move in response to recent state statutory revisions and court decisions allowing such transfers. 

The council also voted unanimously to hire James Lemon as the new city attorney, replacing long time city attorney, Chase Hickman who has retired.

After receiving interest from several engineering firms, the council voted 6-0 in favor hiring Klingner & Associates to assist with a  preliminary engineering report needed for a CDBG application for bridge improvement funding.

Council member Brock Fahy said the Street and Alley Committee had reviewed the applications and recommended Klingner & Associates.

“Klingner has done work for us, and is already familiar with the project,” Fahy said 

The council was also united in awarding an asphalt overlay bid to Emery Sapp & Sons at a cost not to exceed $90,000.

The expenditure was budgeted for this year to pay for the street department’s annual street overlay projects.

The council also unanimously awarded a bid to sell the street department’s 1987 oil distributor truck to Eric Miller for $3,750.

Following the recommendation of MIRMA, the city’s liability insurance carrier, the council voted unanimously to approve the City of Palmyra Volunteer Reference Guide.

It was noted the new guidelines will primarily affect the Recycling Center where members of local organizations often volunteer their services.

City Attorney James Lemon said the guidelines will require groups of youths under the age of 18 to provide signed parental permission forms before serving as volunteers in the future.

City Clerk Deena Parsons said efforts are being made to get the required permission forms to organizations such as 4-H clubs and school groups.

Parsons told the council the city has been contacted by American Tower, the owners of a signal tower located on city water plant property, which is interested in extending its lease with the city.

She said American Tower wants to extend the current lease, which is up in September of  2021 for another 15 years to September 2036

The company is offering to pay a lump sum of $15,000 up front along with the current $400-per-month lease payment for the extension.

Parsons noted the council in 2018 had rejected an even longer lease extension due to a desire not to handcuff future councils.

It was the consensus of the council to table the issue until the next council meeting, Sept. 17, in order to gain more information.

Upon the recommendation of the Personnel Committee, the council voted unanimously to hire the Schaeder Law Firm out of St. Louis to update the city’s employee handbook.

Police Chief Eddie Bogue reported the department’s new officer, Mitch Carey, has started attending police academy.

He also said his department has been receiving complaints about traffic congestion around the elementary school before and after school.

He said he is working with the school district to come up with a solution.

Council member Pam Behring reported the Palmyra Chamber of Commerce has cancelled this year’s Taste of Palmyra over COVID-19 pandemic concerns.