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Caleb Phillips

Nodaway County Prosecutor

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Nodaway County officeholders held their first meeting of 2021 last week, capping off 2020 and looking ahead to 2021.

Prosecuting attorney Caleb Phillips, who in September took over as just the third Nodaway County prosecutor over the past 30 years, said the transition into his new duties has gone well, but the caseload is large.

“Right now, we’re on track to file about 800 cases,” Phillips said. “And I’ll tell you … it sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. It’s probably more than one lawyer can handle. But we’ll manage.”

According to Phillips, the number of cases this year is roughly comparable to the number filed in 2019, but 2020’s caseload was lighter, likely due to the changeover that included a two-month period of a temporary prosecutor.

Phillips said that much of his time is spent in court, and has requested to hire an investigator to his team to help make headway on the “natural backlog” of cases he said built up in the time between when former prosecutor Robert Rice began his appointment as Associate Circuit Judge in July and when Phillips was sworn in a couple of months later.

For his part, Judge Rice said he has increased the number of law days to help reduce the length of a day’s docket for both criminal and civil proceedings, which he said will help “just get the cases moving, so that the litigants can have a final resolution one way or another.”

“For example, what used to be maybe two criminal law days a month are now at least three criminal law days, and then we separated out traffic citations from the misdemeanor and felony criminal cases,” Rice said at the Jan. 7 meeting.

Collector-Treasurer Marilyn Jenkins said that about 1,400 residents used the outdoor dropbox to pay property taxes, and about 96 percent of tax bills have been paid. That’s down from the usual around 98 percent, she said.

“It was a very different tax year,” she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenkins’ duties expanded to become the chief caretaker of federal CARES Act funds, responsible for sorting through applications from eligible agencies and disbursing funds.

North District Commissioner Chris Burns thanked Jenkins and other county staff who throughout last year often had to work through staff absences because of COVID-19 to spearhead the funding efforts, which went off without a hitch.

“I think Nodaway County did a great job as far as getting it to where the needs were compared to some other counties where they just said, OK, let’s just write this big check and be done,” Burns said. He cited in particular the diverse group of agencies, organizations, businesses and governmental entities that were helped through CARES funding. “… I want to commend everybody for that, I think it helped out the county as best as possible.”

The funds have now been depleted, Jenkins said, but her office still has large quantities of masks and hand sanitizer for any organizations that need it.

And coming up this year, Burns said the county is planning to complete seven bridge projects, including one major BRO — Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation — project. The Missouri Department of Transportation’s BRO program is used to help pay for repair of “off-system” bridges in rural areas. The funding allocations can be swapped between counties, and Burns said Nodaway County has received BRO funds from Jackson and Worth counties. In addition, some grant funds from last year will roll over that otherwise would have been wasted, Burns said.

The bridge projects are expected to begin in July, weather permitting.

One bridge that has already been repaired, though, has seen its federal reimbursement denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Burns said, after repairs were made in the wake of severe weather. The county received a denial letter from FEMA last week for the repairs that cost about $239,000.

“Don’t understand why, but they’re blaming it on maintenance,” Burns said. “... I don’t know that maintenance can control that. But we’ll continue that battle and see if we can’t get that funding approved.”

Other notes

  • The Nodaway County Fair is currently set for July 16-18.
  • The county commission expects to approve a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for county employees as part of this year’s budget. The first budget hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 21.