Commission speaks on state of the county

As Missourians prepare to hear from Gov. Jay Nixon regarding the state of the state tonight, the Callaway County Commission took time Tuesday to offer a similar assessment of the county’s status as it heads into 2011.

All three Callaway leaders placed creating a balanced budget as the top reason the county is looking strong.

“I think that’s notable. We came out really well compared to how other counties are doing,” said Eastern District Commissioner Gabe Craighead. “It’s a big thing for us. Right now we’re being conservative in our numbers and making sure we keep on a balanced budget.”

“First of all, I think I would mention just the fact Callaway County as a county is financially sound at this point,” agreed Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer. “We have our budget hearing on Thursday, and we will have a balanced budget.”

New Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann echoed those comments, adding he also sees the county’s ability to give employees a raise this year is another positive as it moves into the new year.

He said a third highlight for Callaway will be the ability to “do a few things this year for maintenance.”

“We were able to buy three new patrol cars, do some bridge work, and we have some other capitol projects slated for later this year — we’re just waiting to keep an eye on budget and revenues,” Jungermann said. “All in all, I’m extremely pleased with the budget and the outlook for the future.”

Kritzer also mentioned the county’s ability to do a little more maintenance projects and planning for the future thanks to having made conservative financial decisions over the past several years.

“We’re in a position where we can continue to invest in long-term improvements,” Kritzer said. “For example, in 2010 we were able to spend an extra $300,000 on road overlays, and we had not done any paving since 2004.

“We are continuing to upgrade our facilities, and we are discussing some long-term goals.”

He specifically mentioned developing a committee to look at county facilities — noting the judicial system is cramped for space and the health department roof needs to be replaced in the next five years — as well as coming up with more solid plans to attract new businesses and “encourage existing businesses to expand.”

Kritzer also said the commission needs to work on its relationships with other area governing bodies in 2011.

“We need to work more with the city governments, look at what we can do to help those entities, what we can do to help each other,” he said.

Kritzer said the potential of Ameren building a second unit in Callaway also “is going to be at the top of our discussions.”

“With the governor backing some new legislation, we need to do what we can to encourage (that proposal),” Kritzer said. “We can’t ignore our energy needs in the future ... and that would be a big boost to Callaway County.

“We need to be talking about if it comes and when it comes and how we’re going to deal with it.”

“With the Ameren 2 project ... I think there’s some huge potential, we just have to go out and work hard and be prepared,” Jungermann agreed.

Despite the enthusiasm about the balanced budget and potential future development, Craighead said finances and the current economy are the biggest challenge facing the county in 2011. He specifically mentioned impending cuts in state and federal funding as having the potential to drastically impact the county budget.

“With the state cuts, that’s all unforeseen — they don’t know what they’re going to cut yet,” Craighead said. “We just hope they don’t balance their budget on the backs of local government. (We’re concerned with) the unknown costs we might incur based on state cuts.”

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