St. Francois County officially became a First-Class County on January 1, 2013. Dr. David Cramp was the Presiding Commissioner at that time and did a wonderful job in handling the day-to-day operations during this transition of our classification by the State of Missouri. In fact, Dr. Cramp led the way in the conversion and is to be applauded and commended for his work and efforts.
Since 2015 the present team of commissioners has had the task of updating our County into a more modern and efficient system of handling the County’s business and service to our residents and taxpayers. We have worked in minimizing the “pains” of change during this process and the public’s knowledge of this long list of achievements has largely been lost due to the very gradual, systematic and planned nature of the changes.
The payroll system change, policy updates and the WRF building acquisition have been discussed elsewhere on this website. These alone were massive improvements. However, the list goes on. I will make a quick list of many other of the updates we have finished to date—more are in the works:
Our accounting software has been updated to a more modern, faster, and searchable system. This greatly improved such things as our annual budgeting process. It also helps us in making sure that we comply with all the many, and often-confusing, rules of purchasing and acquisition that the State demands. The system is operational on a daily basis with employees trained in its use.
We have created an IT department to maintain and update the 270 computers in our system in an orderly manner. Older, slower and outdated computers have been replaced with newer models. We have improved the internal phone systems in all our buildings.
We have acquired office space for the Public Defenders offices rather than renting space for them. This also allows us to collect rental income from the other Counties involved with that office. We also save over $16,000 of rental funds from our County annually as we own the building.
The tractors and mowers used by the Road & Bridge Department are now owned by the County rather than renting them at a higher cost.
We have updated, added to, and improved the equipment of the Road & Bridge Dept. New excavators have been purchased that allow our operators to do more work more quickly. Trailers have been added that allow faster and safer transportation of that equipment. These minimize the need for rentals and delays. Worn, outdated or incorrectly sized equipment has been sold.
The new R&B equipment and highly trained people now allows us to build our own bridges! The Buck Mountain Road Bridge is open to the public and is a major accomplishment for our crew. It is a beautiful and professionally built bridge. The cost for this bridge was about half of contracted construction.
We have added an in-house mechanic for our Sheriff’s department. The Sheriff has over 50 vehicles and many of them show high mileage. We now do more of the repairs and maintenance work in-house. We have also added a wrecker to our list of equipment. No longer must these older vehicles be hauled by outside companies when they break down. The down-time is thus lessened and costs are reduced.
We have an entirely new headquarters for the Road & Bridge Department. The location on Woodlawn Drive is safer, more efficient and has better working space for the employees.
We now have a St. Francois County Morgue. This was a vital step in reducing costs for the County and inconvenience for the grieving families involved.
We are currently adding stand-by generators to all our buildings. It is important that your County stay in full operation during any type of emergency. We must clear the roads, purchase supplies and maintain our systems in those times of stress to enable our citizens to carry on their lives and for emergency vehicles to function.
We now have a Floodplain Administrator as required by FEMA and SEMA. We also have an Emergency Management Director in the event of emergencies.
The 911 system is now self-controlled and no longer under the supervision and budget of the County.
We have added much-needed office space to our system through the addition of the Weber Road Facility (WRF). We need more. The Court backlog continues to grow and more Courtroom space will soon be needed.
The donation of the WRF by Parkland Health Care and BJC also included donations of office furniture for our use. This has cut our costs greatly over the past couple of years. We appreciate them immensely.
Our election office was in a poorly chosen space and was too small. This have been moved to the WRF with much needed added efficiency and convenience to the public. Election night results will be handled from this building with its bigger meeting room and better access.
We have greatly updated the security arrangements and systems of our buildings. No longer can someone walk into the Courthouse without being scanned and otherwise checked. We have also added security personnel to the Annex building. Other security updates are ongoing.
We have added video and audio equipment to the Commission Meeting room. Our meetings are now posted to the new County website (at sfcgov.org) and are readily available to the public. This addition may soon allow the room to be used as a stand-by courtroom.
Our Road & Bridge supervising personnel have been updated with new job-descriptions and duties. This makes for a more efficient system.
We have an updated and more accurate list of all County-owned equipment.
We have a civil-law legal consultant available. Previously our legal consultants were well versed in Criminal law only.
The FEMA and SEMA emergency trailers have all been inspected, repaired and updated. They are now ready-to-roll in any emergency situation.
Our Maintenance Department is now trained and adept in installing new flooring. Previously this had to be bid out at higher costs and longer delays.
New engines have been installed in our motor graders greatly extending their operational life.
There is now a computer-controlled fuel dispensing system at the new Road & Bridge facility. Other departments also use this system for their refueling and we have accurate records of who use the fuel and into which vehicle it goes.
Our historic Courthouse has been updated with new steps and façade. The exterior stone work has been professionally cleaned. The outdated elevator system was totally revamped and modernized in order to better assure proper ADA compliance. We hope to improve the windows in the near future.
Lobbying efforts with EPA and DNR received funds totaling almost $800,000 for cleanup of the Owl Creek Project.
We received $6,380.55 in cleanup costs for tires discarded at the Bone Hole County Park.
We also received $15,365 in technical assistance from DNR to identify contamination at our Maple Street Facility—the former location of the Road & Bridge barn.
We won back-to-back Missouri Association of Counties achievement awards for our various projects. This was a first for our County. We also won an award from the National Association of Counties for our work in improving our County operations—again, a County first.
This list would have been daunting had we simply published it early with a deadline for completion. However, tackling each item at the most opportune time made for a more orderly transition and allowed us to stay in-budget throughout the process.
Our thanks go out to the many elected officials and employees that helped make these improvements happen. The above changes are system-wide while many of our elected officials also made other great strides in updating their departmental office operations to add to the total gain for our taxpayers’ benefit.
Again, thanks to all involved.
Harold Gallaher, Presiding Commissioner–St. Francois County