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by Patty Cheffey
The Marion County Commission took steps to expand broadband in Marion County during a special meeting held last Tuesday.
During their regular meeting Monday, commissioners approved funds to help pay to start the process of setting up a transportation district in Marion and Ralls counties, approved aerial photography for the assessor’s office and approved selling several trustee-held properties.
During the special meeting last Tuesday, commissioners met with representatives of Chariton Valley to get a price on costs for expanding broadband into rural Marion County.
After learning, it would cost $4 million to expand it west, and south of Palmyra, the commissioners verbally approved using American Rescue Plan funds, provided Chariton Valley takes the necessary steps to apply for those funds.
In all, the county verbally approved up to $2 million, which includes an initial approval of $1 million, which Chariton Valley will match.
How much of the remaining $1 million, which would expand broadband to the north of Palmyra will depend on whether or not Chariton Valley is approved for a grant, for which they are applying.
“It might be another $1 million, and it might only be $500,000,” said Western District Commissioner Steve Begley. “We just don’t know at this point.”
A written contract with Chariton Valley will be approved, if that company fills out the necessary application and if the county approves funds from the ARP funding.
Chariton Valley also noted it will take an additional $4 million to finish fiber optics within the city limits of Palmyra.
After meeting with Corey Mehaffy, Northeast Missouri economic development director, concerning the development of a transportation district in Ralls and Marion counties, the commissioners approved $25,000 towards the development of that district.
Mehaffy said $50,000 is needed to begin the process of establishing a transportation district, and that Ralls County had already approved $25,000.
Mehaffy is in the process of discussing road issues with the cities of Palmyra, New London and Hannibal as well to see how large of a district might be needed and how large of a sales tax might be needed to fund it.
The planning and negotiating stage will include working with MoDOT on the issue, but Mehaffy said it appears they are committed to start going through the process.
The county also approved spending $79,602.40 for aerial photography with a fly over planned probably in February when there are no leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground.
The amount will be paid out in three payments over three years, and the project includes three-inch resolution photos for the towns and six-inch resolution photos of the rest of the county.
The county also approved the sale of trustee-held properties in Hannibal, including a bid of $200 for property at 1716 Grace St.
The city of Hannibal also bid $1 each on 12 properties in Hannibal, which the commissioners accepted.
In other business, the county discussed the tourism and travel resolution with the Hannibal Tourism and Visitor’s center, but noted the word “single” had to come off the document before they would approve it.
Megan Rapp, director, said she would get that corrected copy to the commissioners for signatures.
Sheriff Jimmy Shinn reported he has an employee crisis as he is down four detention officers, but no applications.
He indicated the issue seems to be shift hours and weekends, and is working to try to change that process in order to recruit new employees.
Shinn also said he is purchasing a used transportation van this week.
In her report, Teya Stice said she contacted Kemner and Sons concerning the painting of the Palmyra Courthouse Lady Liberty and clocks, and they have indicated they will be attempting to do the work this year yet.
She also reminded the county they will need to hire a new field representative to check on new building projects in the county.
The commissioners also received paperwork for the Douglass Community Services CDBG grant application, but after learning the American Rescue Plan funds cannot be used as a match for that, commissioners said they would like to visit with Douglass and with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments before signing anything