A look back at 2021 - Part 2 - Tornado strikes Dexter; Bloomfield Middle School earns National Blue Ribbon Award

Friday, December 31, 2021

This is part two of our look back at at the year 2021. This part of the review will cover July through December.

July

7 • The Dexter School Board accepted a bid for pest control services for the 2021-22 school year and approved a tentative budget.

Assistant Superinten­dent Gavin Miller pre­sented the bids for the pest control service to the board. Two pest con­trol bids were received. They were received from Deprow Services and All Star Pest Management. All Star Pest Management pre­sented a bid for $5,975 and has served the district for 24 years. The bid amount for Deprow Services was not released but Miller said it exceeded the bid from All Star Pest Management. The board accepted the bid from All Star Pest Manage­ment.

• The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) program is not new to Dex­ter but for the first time the Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a three-day Power Camp in Dexter on June 29 and 30 and July 1. It hopes this will be the first of many held in Dex­ter. Dexter coaches gave their time to instruct the elementary and junior high students.

14 • On Saturday evening a storm system tore through the northern section of Dexter damaging numerous homes as well as dropping trees and power lines. Dexter City Administrator Trevor Pulley said on Sunday afternoon that hundreds of homes were damaged as a result.

A team from the National Weather Service arrived on Sunday and its preliminary findings determined an EF-2 tornado was responsible for the damage. The tornado cut a path 5.5 miles long crossing over the North Outer Road and Highway 60. It then took a path north of Business 60 damaging SoutheastHEALTH of Stoddard County, going through a residential section of Dexter including the Dexter Housing Authority. Damage was also seen at the Dexter Cemetery and West Park. The National Weather Service said the tornado peaked with 120 mile-per-hour winds and its maximum width was 175 yards. It began at 8:18 p.m. Saturday and ended at 8:29 p.m. There were no injuries or deaths.

• An unusually wet weather pattern has settled over the region, bringing with it heavy rains and even an out-of-character tornado. Worse, there’s potential for more rain in the forecast.

“You’re pushing 4 inches since last Thursday night,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Rachel Trevino from the NWS Paducah office.

Those totals, she said, are what has occurred at the Poplar Bluff Regional Business Airport.

21 • U.S. Rep. Jason Smith visited Dexter on Tuesday, July 13, to view the damage SoutheastHEALTH of Stoddard County suffered as a result of the EF-2 tornado that struck Dexter three days earlier.

Smith was joined by hospital administration, state Sen. Jason Bean, state Rep. Herman Morse, Dexter Fire Chief/EMA Director Don Seymore, Dexter Police Chief Hank Trout and City Administrator Trevor Pulley.

• In the wake of the EF-2 tornado that struck Dexter on July 10, many are stepping up to help those impacted. On Tuesday, July 13, the SEMO Food Bank teamed up with the Lighthouse Church and Hope International to provide food for not only the families impacted by the storm but anyone who needed it.

28 • The Stoddard County Commission learned last week of changes in federal requirements for the Off-System Bridge Replacement Program.

The BRO program pays 80 percent of the cost through federal funds for the replacement or rehabilitation of bridges owned by local agencies.

According to a press release, eligible bridges must be categorized as poor rather than deficient to qualify for the program.

• Dexter R-XI School District Superintendent Amy James presented the board of education with the end-of-the-year transportation summary at the Tuesday, July 20, meeting.

The number of miles traveled by the district’s busing fleet was 160,280 miles, up 24,277 from the 2019-20 school year. The numbers were down during the previous school year because the district shut down early because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

August 4 • Right now, nobody knows how many contracts with Morgan-Sifford Funeral Home exist, how much money is outstanding, or where the money is at.

Some time ago, Morgan-Sifford lost its license but continued to perform and sell funeral services. The funeral home has since been shut down, and the owner has passed away, but there’s a concerning lack of a paper trail for many customers.

• Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made a stop in Dexter Monday morning as part of his Missouri 2021 Bicentennial Tour. Gov. Parson is visiting historic sites and communities in Missouri during the tour, which will lead up to Statehood Day on Aug. 10 and the Bicentennial Parade and Bicentennial Inaugural Ball on Sept.18.

11 • State Sen. Jason Bean visited the Stoddard County Commission on Monday to address any questions concerning current or future legislation.

Associate commissioner Steve Jordan asked Bean about any legislation that would help fund fiber-optic internet service for rural Stoddard Countians, particularly for those in the southwestern part of the county.

• The Bloomfield City Park has been seeing improvements and more are on the way thanks to the efforts of the Bloomfield Park Board. The park features playground equipment, disc golf, ball fields, pickleball/tennis courts, basketball, covered bridge and more. The city is asking for the support of area residents to continue its work.

18 • The city of Dexter will receive no funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the EF-2 tornado that struck the northeastern part of the city on July 10.

Dexter EMA Director Don Seymore told the Stoddard County Commissioner during Monday’s meeting that he received a letter on Friday that said the city didn’t qualify for the funds.

According to figures supplied by Seymore, the city incurred $12,169,401 in damage.

25 • The Stoddard County Commission reported a 5.7% increase in assessed valuation for real estate and a 9.7% increase for personal property during Monday’s meeting.

The valuation of real estate in the county for 2021 is $354,165,465 compared to $335,107,417 in 2020. The valuation for personal property for 2021 is $167,035,825 compared to $152,270,172 in 2020.

The numbers were announced as part of a public meeting to announce the 2021 tax levies for the Senate Bill 40 board and the county’s drainage districts.

• Following a lengthy legal battle on a post-conviction appeal, the 120-year prison sentence for a Dexter, Missouri, man was upheld Wednesday in court.

According to Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver, in summer 2016, the city of Dexter, was terrorized by a spree of business burglaries by the defendant, Edward Lusk, that involved extensive property damage. Every few days, a new business was burglarized and damaged. Much of the community was gripped by the fear of where and when the next burglary would occur, Oliver said.

September

1 • Stoddard County Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Bohnert discussed upgrades to the county’s tornado siren system during Monday’s commission meeting.

Bohnert sought permission from the commissioners to apply for an Emergency Management Performance Grant to upgrade the county’s system.

“I would like to do it in a three-tier process,” Bohnert said. “Our No. 1 priority would be to change how our siren system is activated. This new system isn’t like the push-button consoles. It will be computer-based, (featuring) automatic triggering.”

• Eight. Eight is how many schools in Missouri that are named a Gold Star School.

Bloomfield Middle School is one of those schools. Dr. Margie Vandeven, commissioner of education for Missouri, was on hand in the Bloomfield High School gym Friday to present the Gold Star Award in a special ceremony.

8 • As a retired elementary school librarian, Tina Mlodzik stresses the importance of supporting public libraries, especially in communities where children may not own their own books.

“Giving children access to a large quantity and varied selection of books has many benefits,” Tina explains. “The more books a child sees, the more motivated they are to read. Borrowing books from the library teaches sharing and builds respect for things that belong to others.”

Grow Your Library will hold a special story time event at the Essex Public Library from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The library is located at 110 North Cypress St. in Essex.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was joined by John Watkins and volunteers from the Wakins Wildlife Rehab community to release a bald eagle on Saturday, September 4, at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was found at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in poor condition and was taken to the Watkins Wildlife Rehab facility. The eagle was sent to rehabilitation due to an extremely high dosage of lead poisoning. The eagle was given a medicine called Chelation to remove the toxic lead from her system over the course of her recovery.

15 • The Stoddard County Commission approved spending $5 million of the county’s America Rescue Plan funds on infrastructure projects and healthcare needs.

The commission voted 3-0 during the Aug. 30 meeting to allocate $5 million to be used for projects such as water, sewer and broadband and for the hospital, the ambulance district and licensed residential care facilities, according to the meeting’s minutes.

• Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft presented a $5,558 technology grant to Keller Public Library. The grant will be used to update the firewall at the library and replace some patron computers.

22 • The Stoddard County Senate Bill 40 (SB40) board was addressed via cell phone by Chris Casteel, vice president of Supply Chain, for QC Supply in regards to the rent the company pays the board.

QC Supply is currently renting the former Progressive Industries building owned by the SB40 board.

Casteel asked if the rent could be lowered from $5,200 a month to $4,200 a month, starting in October. In addition he asked to extend the rental agreement two additional years to August 2025. QC Supply signed a three-year rental agreement with the SB40 board in August 2020.

• Dexter resident Steve Rahm told the Stoddard County Commissioners during Monday’s weekly meeting that VFW Post 2659 needs financial assistance and without it could lose its charter.

“This COVID has just ruined us money-wise and member-wise,” Rahm said. “I’m here (because) I wanted to ask if service organizations are eligible for the American Rescue Plan, and if so, what kind of procedure do I use to ask for these monies.”

29 • Dozens of people arrived Saturday at the former site of The Landing, which burned down in a catastrophic fire Sept. 15, for a recognition service to support its proprietors, Tom and Della Bedell. The event included speakers and live music, a presentation of resolutions honoring The Landing from the House and Senate, and ended with an announcement from Jeremy Bedell that his family planned to rebuild the landmark resort.

October

6 • People gathered at the United Methodist Church in Dexter this past Friday and Saturday with the objective of helping other people. The 2021 Sharefest, which is part of the statewide Festival of Sharing, is an ecumenical event involving several churches.

• The Stoddard County Commission approved the Stoddard County Ambulance District for up to $225,000 in ARPA funds at Monday’s meeting.

The commission voted 3-0 to allow SCAD to spend up to $225,000 on American Recovery Plan Act eligible items.

13 • A Oran man is facing several charges after his arrest during a narcotics investigation in Dexter. According to a release from Chief Deputy Andy Holden at the Stoddard County Sheriff’s office, Lawrence Woodson of Oran was arrested at a residence in Dexter.

Holden stated in the release that the Stoddard County Sheriff’s Department, Dexter Police Department and Missouri Highway Patrol assisted a Stoddard County Deputy who is assigned to the SEMO Drug Task Force with a narcotics investigation in Dexter.

• Recently The Lighthouse Church in Dexter opened its doors to students from the A.T. Still University (ATSU)-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health in St. Louis. The students were at the church as part of its Smiles of Hope program, which is overseen by Kevin DeArman, who is the dental minister, administrator and coordinator of the program.

20 • The Stoddard County Commis­sion approved a bid to repair the Stoddard County Public Water District No. 3 tower in Grayridge during its Oct. 12 meeting.

The commissioners ac­cepted a bid of $202,439 from Hogan’s Painting and Sandblasting of Van Buren, to paint the inside and out­side of the tank. The funds will be paid with the coun­ty’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

• At the beginning of the school year Bloomfield Middle School was named a Gold Star School, one of eight in the state of Mis­souri. Now Bloomfield Middle School has been awarded the National Blue Ribbon School honor.

“I was actually notified last February (or) March that we had been chosen by our commissioner of education to be part of the Gold Star and Blue Ribbon programs,” said Superin­tendent Toni Hill. “There is a little bit of information gathering that they need, so they notify those schools pretty early on so that we can get all that together for them. So I have had to sit on it for a long time, so that was difficult. But we are very excited to be able to celebrate with our students and our

27 • The bell will be ringing and the clock will be ticking soon at the Stoddard County Courthouse.

The Stoddard County Commission voted 3-0 Monday morning to allow S&N Clock Repair, of Cape Girardeau, to fix the clock at a cost of $5,000, as well as pay the company $800 annually to maintain it. Under the maintenance agreement, S&N would inspect it four times a year. If repairs are needed, the company would provide free labor but the county would have to pay for the parts.

• The Dexter School Board faced a busy agenda at its October meeting. Several policy updates were approved along with the budget and assessment report.

The updated board policies were presented by Superintendent Amy James at the September meeting for the board to review and hold a final vote at the October meeting. The policies are recommended to the board by the Missouri Consultants for Education (MCE). Some policies established by the MCE are mandatory so as to be in compliance with legal requirements. The new policies addressed multiple areas including a shortened filing time period for school board elections, filling a board vacancy, reporting student abuse and providing specific facilities for employees and students to use as a lactation room.

November

3 • The Stoddard County Commission approved $68,481.61 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Stoddard County Ambulance District during Monday’s meeting.

The commissioners approved the purchase of a Stryker LIFEPAK 15 monitor/defibrillator for a cost of $41,403.71 and SimMan ALS high fidelity training mannequin for $27,077.90.

• The Dexter Board of Aldermen approved an increase to the water, sewer and trash rates at its November meeting.

City Attorney Yewell “Bud” Lawrence presented three ordinances to the board to address the rates. City Administrator Trevor Pulley said the rates have not been addressed since 2015 and Dexter has had the lowest rates in the area. He further stated that the increase would be necessary to buy trash trucks and keep the sanitation side going. Pulley said the trash rates for the city have been increasing and this year went up $2 a ton. He stated that currently the cost of pipes and other equipment for the water department are very high. Pulley said the city recently tried to get a quote on some pipes and the quote was only good for an hour or two due to the increasing prices.

10 • The Richland School District has again received high honors. Richland has been ranked as the No. 1 school district in Missouri by the Show-Me Institute, and Richland Elementary has been ranked as the No. 3 elementary school in Missouri by U.S. News and World Reports.

• The City of Advance submitted a request for American Rescue Plan Act funds, the Stoddard County Commission announced during its Monday morning meeting.

Advance requested $674,000 to help fund the expansion of the city’s water-and-sewer system to Lakeville, which is located near Advance on state Route O; a wastewater system upgrade; and an upgrade to the city’s water distribution system.

17 • A Dexter man was ordered Friday to stand trial in the Nov. 5 death of another man near Dexter.

Stoddard County Prosecutor Russ Oliver originally charged Boyd Lippoldt with the Class A felony of first-degree murder, the unclassified felony of armed criminal action, the Class B felony of driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of another, the Class D felony of possession of a controlled substance and the Class E felony of tampering with physical evidence.

• The Stoddard County Commissioners said during Monday’s meeting that they have learned the fate of more than $12,000 in CARES Act payroll reimbursement.

Some businesses mistakenly received CARES Act funds for payroll last year, and the county contacted those businesses to return the money.

24 • The Stoddard County Senate Bill 40 (SB40) Board held a public hearing prior to its November meeting. The public hearing held for the purpose of hearing public input into the annual budget.

No members of the public were present to speak so chairman Josh Hester closed the hearing and moved to the regular meeting with approval from the board.

• The Dexter School Board approved the purchase of a new quarter-ton truck for the maintenance department.

Assistant superintendent Gavin Miller said currently the district has two work trucks and a van. Miller said two members of the maintenance staff use one truck, one uses the van and the fourth uses the final truck. Another member of the district maintenance staff will be leaving the district, and Miller said the district would like to get its certified refrigeration/heat-and-air member in a truck.

December

1 • The 13th Annual Dexter Christmas Reading drew a crowd on more than 600 people Saturday evening. Individuals from Dexter, Poplar Bluff, Kennett, Sikeston and as far away as Perryville sat around firepits while partaking in spiced cider and 50 dozen cookies on hand.

This was the first event held outdoors since 2018. The event was forced indoors in 2019 by weather and was held virtually last year due to COVID-19.

• Joshua Koonce pleaded guilty Monday to the stabbing death of Jimmy Casey. 

Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver said in a news release that Koonce entered the guilty plea 30 minutes before the trial was scheduled to begin and the state extended no plea bargain to the defense. Koonce pleaded guilty to the charges of second degree murder and armed criminal action.

8 • Around 40 people attended the public hearing concerning the possible legalization of UTVs on the streets of Dexter. Dexter City Administrator Trevor Pulley said the hearing would have a duration of 20 minutes and anyone who wished to speak would have three minutes. Only those living in the city limits could speak.

• Stoddard County taxpayers will have the option of paying their personal property and real estate taxes in installments beginning in 2022.

The Stoddard County Commission voted 3-0 during Monday’s meeting to allow County Collector Joshua Speakman to enter into an agreement with taxpayers who choose to make prepaid estimated monthly installments on the upcoming year’s taxes.

15 • Stoddard County Public Health Center Director Ben Godwin said Thursday afternoon that the health center must cease all COVID-19 related work.

Godwin said this is due to a court decision on November 22 in the case of Robinson v. Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services, 20AC-CC00515. In the case a Cole County Circuit Court Judge removed the authority given to the state and local public health agencies for quarantine under 19 CSR 20-20.010, 19 CSR 20-20.020, and 19 CSR 20-20.030.

22 • The Stoddard County Commission announced changes to the county’s health plan during the Dec. 13 meeting.

The county’s self-insurance is lowering its co-pay to $1,500 and increasing its stop-loss maximum to $32,500.

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