My Fellow Missourians:

Rural broadband is a subject that comes up for discussion quite often in our District 125.  On my way to the Capitol Monday morning, I discussed broadband accessibility and expansion with a rural electric director.  The question is, “How do you justify installing fiber optic cable and electronics at the cost of more than $30,000 per mile?”  Rural areas only average 7 potential hook-ups per mile, and of those 7, it is uncertain how many would subscribe.  Another possibility is wireless, however, this option is line-of-sight sensitive; geographical obstacles such as trees and hills can affect transmission.  Data usage is generally limited to a certain amount with wireless service, too.   Some rural communities have found it helpful to develop a strategic plan for broadband placement that includes creating a comprehensive business proposal to broadband providers to overcome the low population density and high network expenses.   Such a plan could demonstrate to broadband providers that this placement is a sound business decision that would benefit both the providers and the community.  Potential benefits, a community’s needs, partnerships among local institutions (schools, healthcare facilities, local government offices, financial institutions, local businesses, and individuals), and possible anchor tenants must all be included when trying to promote and encourage infrastructure investment.

Upon arrival at the Capitol, I had the privilege of presenting Robert “Bob” Coleman of El Dorado Springs with a resolution recognizing his remarkable contributions to his community.  Mr. Coleman was one of 60 recipients chosen out of 153 nominations for Lieutenant Governor Parson’s Senior Service Award.  This award is intended to promote and highlight the positive accomplishments of Missouri’s senior citizens who volunteer in their local communities a minimum of 25 hours per year.  I think it is safe to say that Mr. Coleman often volunteers at least 25 hours a week.  He has played an instrumental role at the Wayside Inn Museum, the Children’s Lighthouse Theatre, the local women’s shelter, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and Chamber of Commerce.  We are very fortunate to have citizens across the state like Mr. Coleman whose generous efforts keep our communities thriving.

Funding for cemetery maintenance (HB51):

Legislation is now headed to the governor’s desk that will help the many cemeteries across the state that are falling into disrepair because of a lack of funding for maintenance. The legislation will address the problem by allowing for more investment options with the goal of making more funds available for upkeep.  Currently, county-controlled cemetery trust funds are only allowed to keep funds in low interest certificates of deposit or bonds. According to state mandates, the principal on these funds cannot be touched.  Only the interest on the funds can be used to fund maintenance costs.  Because of extremely low interest rates, many county commissions are in a critical situation with minimal funds available to pay for maintenance.  The bill that is now set to become law will allow local control of the cemetery trust funds and give the county commissions the choice to continue to keep the funds in low interest CDs, or to invest a portion of the funds into higher yielding investment vehicles using the expertise of investment managers.  HB 51 will provide county commissions with more investment options, and while this will help in the long run, it will not alleviate the shortage of funds needed right now for this year’s maintenance.  As I stated in an earlier Capitol Report, local cemetery boards, local communities, and descendants of buried ancestors need to take action this year and contribute monetarily through donations or fundraisers to increase endowment funds until state statutes are revised or interest rates increase.  Keep in mind, no funding comes from state taxpayers’ resources.

Upcoming events in District 125:

The City of Stockton will be hosting “The Wall That Heals” at the Stockton High Football Field, May 11-14, Thursday through Sunday. This extremely moving and educational mobile exhibit will be open 24 hours a day and is free of charge. There will be a special memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 13 and the public is invited. ‘The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War.  It is dedicated to honor the “courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country” of all who answered the call to serve during the most divisive war in U.S. history.’ –Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Congratulations to Appleton City on being appointed as a “Purple Heart City.”  To celebrate this award, Appleton City will be hosting festivities on June 9th, Friday, with the annual city parade at 7:00 p.m.  City officials invite and encourage all Purple Heart recipients and all veterans to join the parade by lining up on Poplar Street at 6:30 p.m.  There will be a Purple Heart Ceremony following the parade in Forest Park at 7:45 p.m.   This celebration is in conjunction with their annual fair.  Please contact Appleton City Mayor Karol Stephan at 660-679-1326 or if you or a loved one is a Purple Heart recipient.