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by Patty Cheffey
Although expressing some reservations about doing an engineering study that will probably have to be done again before funding is available, the Marion County Commission signed a letter supporting a grant for the Hannibal bypass.
The grant application is for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity or RAISE Discretionary grant to help fund the planning and preliminary design of the proposed Hannibal Expressway.
The commissioners signed their support during their meeting Monday, at which they also discussed the American Rescue Plan funds, heard about a proposed expansion of the Hannibal Career and Technical Center and heard from Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd concerning the court reporter position.
According to Western District Commissioners Steve Begley, the discussion has been that the engineering study is only good for three years, but there won’t be any state funding available for at least 10 years.
“Is it a waste of money if we know we have to do an engineering study every three years?” he asked.
Eastern District Commissioner Larry Welch pointed out there is federal money which could become available sooner.
“And, if funds should become available from the state, they can’t get it, if they don’t have this study done,” he said. “I think we should move forward as much as possible with this.”
In other business, Samantha Diffenderfer with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Government briefly reviewed what is known currently about the American Rescue Plan funds.
Diffenderfer answered questions about how those funds can be used as of right now and on what they cannot be used.
She was also seeking information from the commissioners as well as representatives from both Palmyra and Hannibal about how they are hoping to use the funds and their means of distribution if they decide to open it up to other entities.
“Some communities are having public hearings to hear from their constituents about how to spend the money,” she added.
In a related matter, Harla Friesz, county recorder, asked about the possibility of using some of the money for a new program which would allow constituents to apply for marriage licenses online rather than have to come to the courthouse.
“I am looking at saving our constituents’ time as well as saving time in my office,” she explained, adding cost for implementing the program would be around $10,000.
The commissioners expressed their approval for the program and indicated they would look into whether or not the funds could be used for this.
Also present to ask about possible funding was Susan Johnson, superintendent of the Hannibal School District, who gave an overview of plans the district is considering to expand the Hannibal Career and Technical Center.
The district, she said, had been approved by a foundation about possible funding, and asked the district to come up with three options.
While that funding would only be part of the funding for any project, Johnson said she has been conducting several meetings with other interested parties.
Should the funding become available, Johnson said it would allow the technical center to add wings to their buildings and not only add different classes but to expand existing ones.
The Hannibal School Board is also looking into purchasing a nearby building for possible expansion.
Via phone call, the commissioners also heard from Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd about the associate judge’s request last week to hire a court reporter for federal cases when necessary.
Bringer Shepherd noted often times attorneys pay for the court reporter for a jury trial and there is recording equipment available for the court’s use.
She noted, however, that because of the witnesses being spread out more because of COVID-19, if the county could find funds to help pay for that, it would be appreciated.
They also gave approval to Wendy Howe, public administrator, to hire a new person since that position was already included in the budget.