SKIDMORE, Mo. — Skidmore community members packed into Newton Hall last week to hear from officials about law enforcement options for the city.
Nodaway County Sheriff Randy Strong and Capt. Scott Wedlock attended the meeting and along with City Attorney Miles Figg, clarified just what options city residents have when a law enforcement need arises.
In the August Board of Aldermen meeting, Figg told the community members, that legally there was no reason that the sheriff’s department can’t enter the city of Skidmore and start enforcing all the laws including Skidmore’s.
“After the August city council meeting Sheriff Strong reached out to me and very politely pointed out that he thought I was incorrect about one of the statements that I made,” Figg said last week. “I talked to him; spent some time in the fun law books and I learned Sheriff Strong was absolutely right.”
Figg said Strong is right that state statutes do not grant a sheriff of any county to be an authority to enforce a city’s ordinances, which he said are on par with civil violations in the eyes of the law.
He explained that the sheriff only had the authority to enforce the state laws.
As an example, Figg said if the Missouri General Assembly passed a law that made it illegal to chew bubble gum and walk on the sidewalk, Strong could enforce it within Skidmore city limits. If the Skidmore Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance that it is illegal to chew bubble gum and walk on the sidewalk within the city limits, Strong could not enforce it.
He said that’s why the city has been reviewing ordinances and hired a code enforcement officer to help with municipal citations.
State statutes do allow for a city to enter into a contract with the county sheriff to allow the office to enforce city ordinances, but no such agreement exists with Skidmore.
“It may not make sense in the circumstance to do that,” Figg said.
Strong told the board and community members that this issue is easily misunderstood and that he’s spoken with other communities about the same topic.
“When I became a new sheriff and went to Jefferson City for orientation that was one thing they made us aware of too,” he said. “That’s often misunderstood.”
Strong explained that there are laws the sheriff’s office will enforce within city limits, such as state traffic violations, driving recklessly on any city street, disturbing the peace or making threats.
He looked back at the office records and noted that deputies have been to the Skidmore community more than 200 times just this year.
“This is my third trip over here today,” Strong said. “We’re over here quite a bit. We’re always happy to come.”
Alderman Rana Killingsworth asked if there is a way for people to call in reports that won’t be heard over radio scanners. She explained that by the time a deputy arrives, the problem “disappears.”
Strong said anyone reporting a crime may ask that their report not be aired on the radio.
“All my deputies have cellphones and that can be an easy way to do that,” he said.
Eric Davis, a county resident who lives near Skidmore, told the audience he believes the city needs more law enforcement.
“Nodaway County needs help. The city of Skidmore for over four decades has suffered from the lack of effective police protection,” he said. “The shadows and ghosts from 40 years ago still cast a huge shadow on this community and it’s unfair to every reasonable, decent person in this room and the ones that didn’t come here.”
Other community members asked about what kinds of calls the office can respond to, such as children and teens on four wheelers and motorcycles driving around on city streets.
Strong said technically if they’re operating a motor vehicle on city streets they’re required to have a driver’s license and that is a call the his office can help with.
City resident Rick Stanton said that part of the problem is that when deputies arrive, no one will speak on the record as a witness.
“I’ve had over $30,000 worth of stuff stolen out of my yard this year and would you believe nobody saw a thing?” he quipped.
He said that if the 200-plus people in town won’t watch out for each other, “I don’t know why any of you expect the sheriff’s department to do it for you.”
City resident Lou White said she’d still like the city to look into hiring an off-duty deputy to be in town at random hours, so that they can see what’s happening and put a stop to it. She suggested that if the community members knew an officer could be in town at any time, they may not continue illegal activities.
Strong said he has 14 deputies that work two shifts — three of which are tied up at the Nodaway County Courthouse and with inmates at the county jail — in a county with 877 square miles.
“Most of my deputies — they run a 12 hour shift — and they really just don’t have the time,” he explained.
Skidmore Mayor Sandy Wright mentioned that law enforcement everywhere is having a difficult time finding people interested in the profession.
Water, sewer rates
The board approved an increase of the water and sewer rates during last week’s meeting. Mayor Wright said the increases are necessary to keep the city solvent. It has been losing money on the water side because of cost increases from PWSD No. 1, she said.
Killingsworth asked what happens if they increase the water rate again? Wright explained the city would have to increase rates again also.
According to new water ordinance, the new base rate for in-town users is set at $40 for the first 1,000 gallons used and another $10 per thousand gallons used thereafter.
In March, the in-town base rate will be increased to match the base rate for those outside city limits, set at $44 for the first 1,000 gallons used and $10 for each thousand gallons used thereafter.
On the sewer side, the board approved Wright to sign on behalf of the city for loans and paperwork regarding the renovation of the city sewer treatment plant for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Revolving Fund Program.
Board members also approved a new sewer ordinance setting the minimum charge at $30 for the first 1,500 gallons and an additional 50 cents per 1,501-2,500 gallons used thereafter.
Wright explained the increase on the sewer side is required to keep moving forward on the plant upgrade project.
The next meeting of the board is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 at Newton Hall.
- The board hired local resident Remington Long as a part-time city employee to help long-time city employee Marvin Sumy. In closed session last month, the board approved reducing Sumy’s hours from 40 hours per week to 20 and discontinue his monthly insurance reimbursement. Long’s maximum allotted hours are not to exceed 20 hours per week.
- Board members approved the closure of an alley that runs 125 feet north from East Elm Street and State Highway 113 near Russ Wetzel’s property.