Come April 4, voters in Cole County will be asked whether they approve of a 3 percent countywide sales tax on recreational marijuana.

The measure will be added to the April ballot following a decision Tuesday by the Cole County Commission.

The measure will go alongside a similar initiative added to the ballot by the Jefferson City Council. This means Jefferson City residents will vote on whether to approve both a 3 percent citywide tax and a 3 percent countywide tax on recreational marijuana sales.

The tax would only apply to recreational marijuana if approved.

The initiative comes after Missourians in November voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old and older.

In other action at the meeting, the commission approved a request by Public Works Director Eric Landwehr to use salary reserves to provide years of service compensation to public works employees.

Landwehr said his department is facing issues with retaining experienced employees. He said the issue comes from salaries, which are lower in Cole County than at departments in surrounding counties.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Landwehr said, an equipment operator who had worked for the county for six years quit because of his salary. Landwehr said there are two more operators interviewing with other employers right now who could potentially be lost if no action is taken.

Another six, he said, are likely waiting for the commissions’ decision before deciding whether to stay or seek other employment.

“I cannot stand losing people, especially good people, going to surrounding departments or other agencies or whatever to make more money. We have a commitment to our citizens to provide the best quality of service that we can,” Landwehr said. “That is no more evident than what happened last Thursday when we got hit by that crazy snow that nobody could predict. I struggled to get to work. It was the worst snow I’ve ever driven in. As I’m pulling in, those guys were loading their trucks and going out to plow.”

Landwehr said the county needs to keep its operators who are willing to go out and clear snow while the public is told to stay off the roads.

Sheriff John Wheeler remarked there were two calls his deputies wouldn’t have been able to respond to during the storm if it hadn’t been for public works’ plow drivers.

Landwehr’s request to draw from his department’s salary reserve account, which resides in the county’s general fund, aligns with a three-part plan he presented to the commission last fall. He said when he presented his plan to the commission, he was trying to be proactive to get ahead of this retention issue.

The commission approved the first part of his plan, which implemented a career path progression plan for the department. However, the commission did not approve the other two parts, which involved the years of service bonus and increasing starting pay.

Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said at the time it was too late in the year to enact the changes.

Now, Landwehr said, the problem he tried to get ahead of is here. He said giving his employees compensation for their years of service will show the county’s commitment to fairly compensating them.

He proposed giving his employees $100 per year of service. When he originally presented his plan, that number was $200.

Even with the years of service bonus, Landwehr said the county is going to fall behind its neighbors if more changes to the salary structure aren’t made.

Health Department Director Kristi Campbell shared concerns that public works had a salary reserve account to draw from, but her department didn’t, even though it’s also facing staffing issues. She said she has three nursing positions that are vacant and two of those have been vacant for months.

“We can’t even get anybody to apply, so the fact that you’ve had a vacancy for two weeks and you’re doing interviews, I wish we were in that spot,” Campbell said.

Campbell said she wishes the county could look at salaries across the board because she thinks it’s a countywide issue. In addition to struggling to fill positions, she said retention issues mean constantly training new staff, which burns out veteran employees.

Landwehr said he understood how difficult it was to keep training new employees and agreed that the issue was countywide.

After more than half an hour of discussion, the commission approved Landwehr’s request. Bushman and Western District Commissioner Harry Otto voted yes, while Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher abstained.

Hoelscher wasn’t present at the meeting and participated in the discussion via phone call. He said he abstained because he didn’t think he had enough information and didn’t think public works should be pulling from the reserve so early in the year.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved running a sole source ad for an IPro contract.

• Signed a sole source contract with ASAP Off Road Specialty Vehicles for $76,404 for a new off-road UTV ambulance.

• Approved the purchase of Motorola radios from EMS Capital for $39,614. The county will receive four mobile radios to go into the new ambulances EMS will be getting this year, as well as two portable radios.

• Awarded the contract for stormwater improvements at the Lakewood subdivision to Logan Excavating for $97,181.

• Awarded the contract for clearing the multimodal facility site to Twehous Excavating for $135,750 pending approval from MoDOT. Since MoDOT is reimbursing the county for some $880,000 of its costs going toward the project, the commission wanted to wait to sign the contract until MoDOT approves.

• Signed a contract with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that will pay Cole County $272,000 for its workforce’s COVID-19 efforts.

The meeting ended with the Otto and Bushman going into a closed session to discuss legal actions. The full meeting is available to watch at

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Originally Appeared Here