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Council Moves Toward Passing Drug Bill; Fills Three Positions, Including City Clerk

With a 2-1 vote, the Ava aldermen took the first step toward passing a city ordinance restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine within the city limits of Ava.   Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant cold remedy drug most commonly sold as Sudafed, is vital to the process of chemically creating methampheta­mines.  The ordinance stipulates that pseudoephedrine and Sudafed purchases must be acquired through a written prescription from a doctor or healthcare professional, and filled by a pharmacist.

Prior to voting on the ordinance, Judge Craig Carter and Sheriff Chris Degase spoke to council members about methampheta­mines, and the precursor ingredient, Sudafed. They cited several examples of underlying causal criminal circumstances that directly relate to meth, and some of the criminal actions taking place in Ava, and Douglas County.

Judge Carter advised the drug has created a sub-culture within the community that most residents do not encounter or see.  This segment of society generally operates during the night, but this is the group he deals with in the courtroom.  He noted meth was the underlying cause for the majority of criminal action cases.  And, meth is directly related to Sudafed.

Sheriff Degase supported Carter’s statements and claims that many of the crime problems in the county are related to the manufacture and use of methampheta­mines.  However, Degase also cited costs as a valid reason to implement the ordinance.

Degase said limiting access to Sudafed makes it harder for ‘drug buyers’ to make purchases in the county, and making access harder for criminals, can be a cost benefit to the county.

Citing a specific example, Degase said drug logs show that non-county residents facilitate 69% of Sudafed purchases in Douglas County. The records document most buyers come from nearby areas, such as Nixa and Theodosia.  Reading from the log, Degase noted out of 307 Sudafed purchases made in Douglas County, 211 of those were by individuals living outside the county.

To-date, Degase said the sheriff’s department has booked 492 people in 2013, and 189 of those bookings are non-residents and usually drug related.  According to statistics, Degase advised that 189 non-resident offenders could realistically cost the county as much as $93,000 in jail costs; but part of this expense could be eliminated if criminals had to purchase precursors like Sudafed, elsewhere.  With an average jail stay of eleven days, at $45 a day, per person, the costs add up quickly.

Mayor Eddie Maggard noted the City of Ava had also received letters from city officials in Branson and Joplin endorsing the bill.

Councilmen Burrely Loftin and David Norman voted in favor of the ordinance, and Bill Long voted no, citing public disapproval and that several of his constituents were against the bill.

Councilman Ric Engelhardt was absent for the vote.

The meeting held on Tuesday was the first step for approving the bill; the next vote is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 26.  At that time, the bill will once again appear on the agenda, for final approval and one more vote by council.

During executive session, council members hired Suzanne Welsh, of Ava, to fill the position of city clerk.  Starting next week, Suzanne will be working alongside Marilyn Alms, who is retiring this month.  Welsh was previously employed at Ava Drug.

Aldermen also hired Micca Sims as clerk for Ava Police Department, and Rosie Barnes as clerk in the utility office.

Director of Development Janice Lorrain reported city officials and representatives from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) met during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 12, to discuss well No. 7, south of Ava.

At a previous council session, the aldermen had decided to abandon the well, and pursue rejuvenating well No. 2, however, during Tuesday’s meeting, DNR advised that well No. 7 was a valuable asset for the City of Ava and abandoning the well would be frowned upon by the group.  They also advised that revamping well No. 2 was not an option, as it would be too costly.

During the meeting with DNR, councilmen and city officials were clearly urged to follow protocol, with the implication that if city officials choose to abandon well No. 7 without DNR approval, future funding projects may be denied.

DNR said the next step in this process is testing for surface water at the site. If the well tests positive for surface water, the well may then be abandoned with DNR approval.

If tests are negative, the city must incorporate the well into the system, and chlorination will be required in all city well sites.  According to Lorrain, DNR is taking the stance that the “well is a good producing well, it just has E. Coli” and that is a problem that can be addressed.

Councilmen agreed to cooperate and comply with DNR’s request, however, they noted the decision was their only choice.  Concluding the discussion, Alderman Burrely Loftin commented, “sounds like they gave us options, but we only had one choice”.

Ava Police Chief Reggie Johnson received permission to start the bid process for purchasing a police car. Johnson plans to buy a new Ford SUV Interceptor for the department.

During the session, Chief Johnson also received grant money from MIRMA for the purchase of a new Taser gun.  Kelly Beets, a repre­sentative from the Missouri Inter­governmental Risk Management Association (MIRMA) made the presentation to Johnson.  According to Beets, the grant will cover 75% of the cost.

Council approved court dockets for June and October 2013. They also approved an ordinance to hold a municipal election on April 8, 2014, when city residents will select a councilman for each ward.

Council voted 3-0 to adopt a sign maintenance program as required for 2014 by the Federal Highway Administration. The plan addresses issues such as sign replacement, inventory requirements, reflective expiration dates, and nighttime sign inspections.  MIRMA assisted city officials in writing the program.

Council also passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute final payments on the city skatepark.

Alderman Bill Long reported the new storm sirens are functioning and in operation.