This Week in Lincoln County – February 20, 2018

Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday. I know I am another year older, and time will tell if I am any wiser. The highlight of the day was a voicemail from my 98 year old uncle in Texas, in which he sang Happy Birthday, with an emphatic “and many more” at the end.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• I want to devote a significant amount of this week’s update to the discussion of one of the most hotly debated topics perhaps in the history of Lincoln County. Brace yourselves folks, we are going to talk about Planning and Zoning! In my time as Commissioner, I have discovered that there are two distinct schools of thought on the issue: passionately for and passionately against. While Lincoln County has had P and Z in the past, currently there is no P and Z in the unincorporated portions of the County. The decision as to whether or not we have P and Z is made by a vote of the people. Contrary to what many proponents of the measure might think, the 3-member County Commission does not have the ability to unilaterally dictate what people may or may not do with their property. This decision belongs, rightfully so, with the voters. I am amazed at the number of people who, while objecting to the current level of government involvement in people’s lives, are vigorously advocating for the Commission to implement various facets of P and Z for which the Commission has no legal mandate to enforce. As a Commission we are called upon to lead within the confines of the law; however, we are often criticized for failing to spend tax dollars to create additional levels of bureaucracy without the voters’ consent. The people have, and will continue to have, the power to make the determination at the ballot box if and when the issue is presented to the voters. I encourage folks on both sides of the issue to let me know their thoughts on the matter.
• Just a friendly reminder, if you have not already returned your personal property tax list to Assessor Kevin Bishop’s office, please do so by March 1. You should have received a listing in the mail, but if you haven’t, call the Assessor’s Office at (636) 528-6300.
• In upcoming weeks, I will address the rejuvenation we are experiencing in the local housing market and the effect it has on our Economic Development efforts. While we are not back to the levels prior to the crash in the market, we are back on an upward trend. More to come.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – February 13, 2018

This morning I had the pleasure of speaking to the students at the Troy Holiness School about leadership. The Principal Kevin Weinand and I have been friends since childhood. I am sure the folks in the neighborhood where we grew up would be surprised to see that the two of us turned out all right.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• On Sunday I attended the wake of Mrs. Betty Creech. I worked my way through college for Betty and her husband Charles. With her passing, Troy and Lincoln County has lost a true pillar of the community who impacted hundreds of lives, mine included.
• There has been renewed discussion regarding the collection of sales tax on the purchase of vehicles, trailers, boats, and outboard motors outside the state of Missouri. The County currently receives sales tax on these purchases, but this will not continue unless we obtain voter approval in 2018 to continue the practice. Tentative plans are for the County to put the measure on the ballot in November. Passage of the measure will keep the playing field level for local car dealers, particularly in areas such as ours that border other states, by preventing out-of-state dealers from capitalizing on this tax loophole. More information will be forthcoming.
• While we are on the subject of the dreaded “TAX” word, I think it is important to have an open dialogue on the effect that on-line merchandisers are having on local brick and mortar enterprises. The price of goods purchased locally is increased by the amount of local sales tax, putting them at a distinct disadvantage to the on-line retailers who, with limited exceptions, do not have to charge local sales tax. Similar to the measure mentioned above, the approval of a local use tax would, at least from a tax standpoint, give everyone an equal chance to earn your business. The folks doing business in our community not only provide opportunities to buy goods and services near home, but they also employ local people and support dozens of local activities such as youth sports, school groups, etc. As is the case with any issue, I want to do more research before I take a hard stand one way or the other, but my initial impression is that Lincoln County needs to seriously consider acting to support local business. Let me know what your opinion is.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – February 6, 2018

With Commissioner training Wednesday through Friday this week, I have been busy trying to cram 5 days’ worth of work into two days. As a result, I am a little tardy in my arrival at the keyboard.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• This time of year is often the “calm before the storm,” with the storm being all of the projects that we hope to undertake once the weather cooperates. We are spending a lot of time going over details with engineers, preparing bid packets, finalizing easement details, and double checking the many facets of mobilizing our paving crew. Planning and preparation are crucial for successful project execution. My sons can attest to my motto regarding the importance of thorough preparation: What is more important than the details? MORE details! Once the weather warms up, we are ready to go to work.
• Monday I had the privilege of speaking to the Troy Chamber of Commerce for my annual “State of the County” address. Most of the highlights from 2017 and the plans for 2018 have been covered in this message in previous weeks, but I shared some information that I think you will find interesting. Did you know that Lincoln County’s median household income of $53,718 ranks in the top 10% of all counties in the State of Missouri? This growth is accompanied by a growing population as well. Ponder this information with the recent data I shared regarding the growth in property values, both commercial and residential. Lincoln County is on an upward trajectory, and I am honored to be a part of these exciting times.
• Petition signatures have been certified and the Library Board will be placing a 10 cent property tax proposal on the August 2018 ballot to fund a county-wide library district. Because it is apparent that there is no legislative relief in sight for the 911 funding dilemma, the 911 Advisory Board and all member entities are contemplating a sales tax measure for some time in 2019. I encourage everyone to be an informed voter and get to the polls.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – January 30, 2018

We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of warmer weather. The budget is in place, the plans are made, and the equipment is ready to roll. This will be a busy year in Lincoln County!

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• If you follow the Commission meeting minutes, you are aware that we receive a monthly report of sales tax revenues. Last year the State of Missouri implemented a new software system for the disbursement of sales, and as is the case with most changeovers, there has been a bug or two to work out. In December 2017, collections were up an extraordinary 25.2%, compared to the same month the prior year, which was followed by a dismal -39.78% in January. Over the last 5 years, the annual totals have ranged from a -0.98% to +9.43% with an average change of +5.93%, so I am confident that this volatility is related to the timing of deposits during the software changeover and not indicative of an unsettled local economy. In conversations with local business people, I’m hearing that the local economy is thriving and, as always, I encourage everyone to spend their dollars locally whenever possible.
• For the most part, the feedback has been extremely positive on our ongoing plans to improve our road and bridge system. While the flooding of 2015 was an event I hope not to experience again, it turned out to be a good learning experience. Throughout the recovery process, we were able to develop a detailed process for accounting for our assets from the largest bridge to the smallest culvert pipe. Armed with this information, we have now begun to lay the framework for the methodical improvement of dangerous low water crossings and outdated box culverts that are too narrow to allow traffic to pass. All of our projects are funded with dollars that have been saved for this specific purpose, which are over and above the reserve balances we maintain to keep the County in a strong position financially. If at any time revenues fall short of expectations, we have the ability to put projects on hold to keep us in that strong position.
• In 2018, Lincoln County will be celebrating its 200th birthday. Keep an eye on the Journal, our website, etc. for updates on the festivities.
That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – January 23, 2018

My how things change! Last week we were in a deep freeze and this week I am scrambling to find a short sleeve shirt.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Two weeks ago, I spoke of the 28% growth in commercial real estate values since 2012. My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked our Assessor, Kevin Bishop, to get me the growth rates for residential property values over the same time period. From $358,618,448 in 2012 to $459,747,783 in 2017 our values have grown…28%. This represents consistent growth in both areas, which is a positive sign. Based on the ongoing construction in the County right now, it looks like this trend will continue.
• It saddens me to announce that there has been another crossover fatality along Highway 61. The latest occurred at the intersection with Highway W in St. Charles County, almost exactly 2 years to the day of the incident that killed 3 people just south of Point Prairie Rd. It is important to understand that St. Charles County is in the St. Louis MODOT District while Lincoln County is in the Northeast MODOT District, so we are working with 2 entirely separate pots of money. I cannot speak for the activities in St. Charles County, but I can bring you up to speed within Lincoln County as I am the vice-chair of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC serves as the local partner in the planning process that ultimately determines which MODOT projects are funded, and Highway 61 safety improvements have been a top priority of the group for many years. Thanks to the advocacy of the TAC, the much-needed median guard cable project from Big Creek to Moscow Mills has been funded and will be completed this summer while the replacement of the badly outdated overpass at 61 and 47 has advanced to the scoping process which moves it one step closer to funding and completion. The TAC and MODOT work closely to anticipate and plan future transportation needs in the area, and we are currently working to determine our next step in the process of making Highway 61 and other State roads as safe as possible for motorists.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – January 16, 2018

I hope everyone is either sitting in front of a roaring fireplace or, better yet, sitting on a beach somewhere in the tropics.  There have been no polar bear sightings in Lincoln County…yet.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.

  • In 2017 there were 19 commercial projects undertaken with 5 of those being an expansion of a current business, 4 were businesses that relocated from one location to another within Lincoln County, and 10 were brand new undertakings. All of these figures are reason for optimism, but the new projects in particular are indicative of good things to come.
  • I have been receiving a few questions about our 5-year road surfacing plan that will be implemented this year. Several of the inquiries have been about which specific roads are included in the plan.  Road selection is based on ongoing maintenance costs as gleaned from our newly implemented road maintenance software.  At this time, we have a set list of roads for the 2018 program and a tentative list for 2019, but nothing is set in stone for years 3-5 other than the fact that we plan to re-surface an average of 20 miles per year over the next 5 years.  Later this year we will finalize our plans for 2019 and determine our prospect list for 2020 based on the costs, then repeat this process annually.  An important aspect of this plan is that the roads selected are chosen objectively based upon facts, and the plan can be extended indefinitely to continue the process beyond the original 5-year timeframe regardless of who is in office.
  • Road salt is in good supply as some years ago we constructed a salt storage structure which allows us to maintain a robust supply. In addition to our membership in a salt buying coop, we have also established our own buying program which enables us to pre-buy our initial supply and restock throughout the season at a predetermined price.  All of this has resulted in significant cost savings for the County.

That’s all I have time for now.  As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions.  Until next week…

Dan Colbert

Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – January 9, 2018

I would like to start by wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Our 2018 Budget will be approved Friday, so I hope to again be able to take the time to prepare this update every week.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• When the Budget is passed this Friday, it will mark the completion of my 8th budget as Presiding Commissioner. This year’s version, especially in Road & Bridge, will reflect an emphasis on the completion of projects for which we have been saving. Highlights include 12 bridges and nearly 40 miles of pavement maintenance and new pavement construction. The new pavement is the first phase of a 5-year plan that calls for a significant increase in the number of hard surface roads in Lincoln County with an ultimate goal of having more than ½ of our roads taken from gravel to hard surface in the next 5 years. Be prepared to see construction throughout the year in Lincoln County.
• Over the past several years, we have experienced growth in both residential and commercial development. This week I would like to focus on the growth in commercial real estate. Our best measure of this is the assessed valuation, which has grown from just under $75 million in 2012 to nearly $96 million in 2017 – a 28% increase! This represents both job creation and outside investment which are the driving forces behind economic development. It appears that this trend will continue through 2018 as there are currently over 237,500 square feet of commercial buildings under construction in Lincoln County which will represent over 100 new jobs upon completion.
• 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year around here, and I encourage everyone to stay in touch and read these weekly updates. It is truly an honor to serve in this capacity for the Citizens of Lincoln County. Let’s get to work!

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – November 13, 2017

The busy days continue, but I want to take a quick moment to share a few things with everyone.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Last Thursday, I had the honor of speaking to a group of middle school students who were at the University of Missouri Extension Center for a leadership presentation. Also presenting were former Silex Superintendent Elaine Henderson and Larry Carter from Carter-Ricks Funeral Home. The students seemed to enjoy the program and were surprised to learn that all three of those of us who spoke had spent a significant portion of our younger years as shy and introverted. I spoke on the importance of planning in leadership and stressed the importance of lifelong learning. This was a great program that I hope continues.
• When you pick up the Journal this week, please take a look at page 13a. I have made the official announcement that I intend to run for a 3rd term when filing starts in 2018. It had gotten to the point that I seldom went out in public without someone questioning whether or not I was going to run, so after much consideration I made my decision. In the past 7 years, we have made a great deal of progress and undertaken a number of endeavors that I would like to see through to completion. First and foremost among these, is our paving program. As Lincoln County continues to grow, I am excited that we are poised to hard surface a significant number of roads in response to this growth. This mindset is what my mother refers to as “follow through.” I would consider it an honor to earn the opportunity to “follow through” on this and other projects.
• Budgets are coming together and we are wrangling with the complexities of health insurance premiums. Overall I am still confident that the final budget document will be solid. As I stated last week, if you have any questions regarding the budget, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail.
• On November 15, my proofreader, editor, and overall right arm will be having knee surgery, so I will be taking a short sabbatical from these updates, so please keep that in mind and keep Blanche in your prayers.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – November 6, 2017

As fall toys with the idea of turning into winter, there is a lot going on in Lincoln County.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• If you have not met our Economic Development Director Larry Tucker and his assistant Julie Rodgers, you need to take the time to reach out and meet these key members of our team. You won’t see Larry’s picture on Facebook or on the cover of the LCJ, because as a consummate professional, he cares about getting the job done and not about the accolades. New buildings are being built, vacant spaces are being filled, and businesses that once considered leaving Lincoln County are not only staying but also expanding. While others might be busy on social media tooting their own horn, our Economic Development staff is moving on to the next project. The road to economic recovery has had turns to make and hills to climb, but we are on track to continue to make progress.
• Budgeting is in full swing in all County offices. This will be the 8th budget I have had the pleasure of helping to create, and while the budget process can get contentious at times, I enjoy being able to see the pieces come together in a single document. As I have mentioned in past columns, our reserve balances are strong, we carry no long-term debt, and we retire what little short-term debt we have early to minimize interest costs. I am currently up to my eyeballs in spreadsheets, but am more than happy to talk budgets if you have a question.
• Many of you may recall that, prior to the unprecedented floods of 2015, we had planned to implement a long-term program to convert gravel roads to hard surface. While the flooding postponed this endeavor, it afforded us an opportunity to bring our bridge inventory up to date. I am happy to say that we have rebounded nicely and will not only be able to continue to keep our bridges in shape and eliminate dangerous low water crossings, but we will also be moving forward with our plan to hard surface gravel roads on an even larger scale than we had originally planned. Stay tuned in 2018 as big thigs are going to happen!

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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Highway Department to Host Open House

Highway Department to Host Open House

The public is invited to an open house at the Lincoln County Highway Department on Saturday, November 4, 2017.  The facility will be open from 9:00-11:00 a.m. for citizens to tour and ask questions.

“We are looking forward to sharing the progress and growth that the highway department has experienced in 2017,” said highway department foreman Donnie Lilley.

Citizens will be able to look at the new equipment, the salt dome, and the brine-making system as well as tour the office and see a short demonstration of the asset management software that is currently being installed.

Assistant foreman Eric Tapley stated, “The crew is looking forward to meeting our citizens and explaining to them what the highway department does on a daily basis.”

Light refreshments will be served.

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