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by Patty Cheffey
Calling it a “crisis,” Sheriff Jimmy Shinn requested and received permission to hire four new jail detention officers.
Shinn made the request to the commissioners at their meeting Monday morning, during which they also heard from two broadband carriers and heard an update on the ARP funds applications.
According to Shinn, current employees are “stressed out to the max” because of the constant dealing with a more violent clientele and being unable to take their comp time.
“I had to eliminate all vacation and time off in November,” he added, noting there is not enough staff to allow for comp time. “My department is the only county department that is working 24/7 and holidays.”
While two new employees had started as of Monday morning, Shinn, after doing some research with comparable sized jails in Missouri, asked to be able to hire an additional four employees.
“The National Institute on Jails survey said for the number of prisoners we have, I should have a staff of 22 detention officers,” Shinn said. “I think that is overkill, but I do feel like I need more help.”
With 104 prisoner capacity and averaging 99 prisoners, including federal prisoners, Shinn said the Marion County Jail is housing more prisoners than jails of comparable size which have a staff of 18 or 19 detention officers.
When asked, Shinn said about half of the current employees are willing to take pay for the overtime which they have worked, but the rest want their comp time.
Upon approval of the additional four employees, the commissioners noted American Recovery Plan funds can be used to pay those salaries, but not the overtime pay.
In other business, the commissioners met with representatives of both Mark Twain Communications and Charter, both of which expressed their interest in providing broadband to rural Marion County.
Both indicated they would like to see fiber run, but noted that would take some time and money.
The commissioners asked both to come back with costs and time to install fiber to everything in Marion County except Hannibal and Palmyra so they could compare it to what the county has already received from Chariton Valley.
While the commissioners verbally agreed to provide $1 million in ARP funds to Chariton Valley to provide fiber throughout the county, Chariton Valley still has to put in an application for funds for that to proceed.
Several residents of rural Marion County, including Jennifer and Joe Webb, Linda Webb and Karen and Gary Hills, were present to try to get as much information as possible about rural broadband.
All are currently on Chariton Valley, but have received letters stating they will be losing that source as of Dec. 31.
Concerning the ARP funds, Allona Kiser, with Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments, was present to review two daycare applications with the commissioners.
She noted Grow and Learn Daycare in Hannibal is probably not eligible for funds to build an additional facility since it is outside of the qualified area, but other expenses might be allowed.
More information is still needed from both Grow and Learn and the First Christian Church Wee Care in Hannibal, Kiser said.
The commissioners also signed three new policies related to Douglass Community Services’ application for a Community Development Block Grant, including an excessive force policy, procurement policy and fair housing policy.
The commissioners also signed a letter of support to the South River Drainage District which informed Presiding Commissioner David Lomas, they are having a hard time getting funding from the Corps of Engineers to help pay for upkeep on the drainage district since the Corps feels that if it floods, it only affects farm land.
In their letter, the commissioners noted any flooding would also affect roadways, which would have to be repaired if they flooded.
In addition, Lomax noted flooding could also affect rural power poles as well.
The commissioners also signed paperwork turning over the county’s right-of-way on Shinn Lane to the city of Hannibal.
In addition, Carla Meyers was present to review this year’s costs for the county’s health insurance.
The commissioners also briefly reviewed the county fund balances, which continue to be in good shape.