Maries County Sheriff Department expected to begin policing Belle by Feb. 1

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 1/22/20

Belle Mayor Josh Seaver said Monday afternoon following a special closed session meeting that the city expects to enter into a police services contract by Feb. 1 with the Maries County …

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Maries County Sheriff Department expected to begin policing Belle by Feb. 1

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Belle Mayor Josh Seaver said Monday afternoon following a special closed session meeting that the city expects to enter into a police services contract by Feb. 1 with the Maries County Sheriff’s Department that will be administered by Sheriff Chris Heitman.

The only agenda item on the  special Jan. 20 meeting was to discuss the potential police contract with the city’s attorney, Mary Weston.

“We went through the contract with the attorney,” Seaver said about the meeting. “A few verbiage things that needed to be changed, but nothing major.”

No votes were officially taken, however, an unofficial contract start date has been confirmed. “That will have to be done in open session,” Seaver said. “As soon as we get the revisions back we will have to have a public special meeting. We are hoping it will start February 1.”

Heitman told Maries County Commissioners at the Jan. 16 meeting that he also expects the county to begin patrolling in Belle on Feb. 1 as the Maries County Sheriff’s Department Belle Division.

Aldermen passed the police service contract Jan. 14  when Seaver broke a tie vote in favor of outsourcing police services to Maries County.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would do in this situation,” Seaver said during Jan. 14 board of aldermen meeting. “My hair is turning gray. I feel like it’s time to try something different. I’m going to go ahead — I’m going to vote yes on this. It’s a yes for me. The motion passes.”

Seaver’s vote came after nearly an hour-and-a-half of hearing from the public, with only one of the 12 people who spoke in favor of the measure, and a few more who were undecided or could go either way.

During the vote, Alderman Tony Gieck made a motion and Alderman Ken Stanfield seconded. The men both voted yes, while Aldermen Jeanette Streumph and Courtney Abel voted against, leaving the mayor to break the tie.

“We’ve just signed this town’s death warrant,” Struemph said directly after the vote, adding that maybe they could have discussed more or had more meetings with the marshal to force him to understand his budget. “I’m very disappointed, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to stand up for my city. I’m not going to stop standing up for my city. I’ve been here for 65 years and we can only stand together and hope for the best.”

Struemph commented again after the Jan. 20 special meeting, “I was so undecided, the preliminary contract was so open-ended,” Struemph said. “I didn’t know what could happen and I think we should have talked more as a group before making a decision.”

She said she questioned why the contract needed to be for two years at the beginning.

“The feeling was that we can’t tell anything the first year,” Struemph said. “I have been greatly assured that there will be law enforcement and they will be present.”

Gieck, who originally asked Heitman for a bid proposal in August 2018, said the decision was simple for him.

“‘Cause Joe didn’t do his job, and this was the best way for people to get the police service they need,” Gieck said. “It was the best way to get more coverage, more manpower, better equipment and less liability for the same amount we are paying now.”

Stanfield said his decision was based on the current state of the town and its finances.

“My decision was based on the financial stability of this town and the increase in crime,” he said.

Abel said Monday night that she would give a statement Tuesday morning about why she voted “no.” However, she did not return an 11 a.m. call, text message, and a 1 p.m. call.

She said after the Jan. 14 meeting, that she was concerned a Missouri Case.Net case had been thrown out because of the sheriff’s influence, but that turned out not to be true.

Seaver later commented on Jan. 20 after the special meeting about why he voted “yes” on the contract.

“As far as myself, the reason I voted the way I did is because it is for the betterment of this community,” Seaver said. “Like I have said several times, it is not a personal vendetta against anybody, but what is best for the town. I wouldn’t do anything to adversely affect my family or adversely affect the town. It is the best course of action right now.”

Heitman posted to his Office of Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman Facebook page that his department has started another page for the Belle Division and invited residents to follow it for local law enforcement news.

His first order of business on the page was to schedule an informational Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Belle-Bland Community Center to help residents understand his department’s role in the new police service contract.

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