Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft stopped in Waynesville Wednesday morning to visit with local officials and others who attended the meeting to find out what issues the area is facing.
Among the topics discussed were traffic issues on I-44 and the loss of funding from MoDOT for projects like sidewalks, but the two main issues that were brought up were about Pulaski County's drug problem and the high cost of prevailing wage.
Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman said that Pulaski County needs a drug rehabilitation center. Hardman's statement was supported by Pulaski County Sheriff Jimmy Bench and other officials present.
Bench noted that "most of all your crime stems" from drug trafficking and abuse. He also said that his department would like to dedicate more to drug enforcement in the county.
Ashcroft agreed that "we have to go after this drug problem" as the group discussed the "opiod epidemic" in the country, not just specifically in Pulaski County.
"We really need some help with this," Hardman said.
The discussion about drugs led into a discussion about available psychiatric beds and facilities, especially as it pertains to law enforcement. Bench and PCSD Captain Linda Burgess discussed how far away facilities are for officers to drive.
Burgess said officers have been known to have to drive as far as St. Louis for an available bed for psychiatric referrals.
St. Robert Mayor George Lauritson pointed out that Pulaski County does not have a hospital facilities, other than Fort Leonard Wood, which is only for military personnel or emergencies.
Lauritson pointed out that not having a hospital in the county forces chemotherapy patients, dialysis patients, and others who have to have such treatments and procedures to drive a half hour or more to receive treatments.
The officials present at the meeting told Ashcroft that funding, grants, and programs aimed at solving these issues would help tremendously. Funding for more officers, higher pay for officers, and funding an actual facility were on the wish list.
Prevailing wage was the second most discussed topic at the meeting. Hardman told Ashcroft about the savings the city of Waynesville has managed to have by creating a construction crew for the city and doing projects "in house" rather than bidding them out.
Hardman pointed to the remodeling and rehabilitation of the old movie theater to turn it into Waynesville's Municipal Center as an example. That project was estimated to cost around $3.5 million and the city did most of the work itself, using the construction crew, and did the work for a fraction of the estimate at about $360,000, according to Waynesville Municipal Center staff.
Ashcroft asked Hardman if she would be willing to come to the capitol and testify about prevailing wage, especially as it concerns how Waynesville has saved money on projects like the Municipal Center and the Dyer Street bridge by doing the work themselves. By creating the construction crew and doing the work themselves, the city has avoided the bidding process and having to pay prevailing wage to outside sources.
Hardman agreed that she would be happy to testify, saying she would add it to her "bucket list."
Ashcroft called prevailing wage "a consistent problem across the state," discussing that he has heard from other small towns and governments that prevailing wage causes doing project cost prohibitive.
Editor's note: Staff at the Waynesville Municipal Center told the Daily Guide that the estimated cost for the Municipal Center was $3.5. Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman said that number was actually $2.5 million, after reading this article.