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State's seismic safety commission struggles to fill vacancies

State's seismic safety commission struggles to fill vacancies

October 21st, 2018 in Local News
New Madrid Seismic Zone - Quaternary Fault Localities. Earthquakes with magnitudes equal to or larger than 2.5 are shown by the yellow dots. (USGS graphic)

Missouri's Seismic Safety Commission continues to be full of vacant seats and members serving on expired terms, but the earthquake program manager with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency said there is reason to hope for change in the near future.

The Seismic Safety Commission was formed in 1995 to prepare the state for New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquakes through objectives such as increasing earthquake awareness and education, reducing hazards through mitigation, improving post-earthquake recovery plans and assessing seismic hazards.

The commission consists of 17 members — 15 professionals in relevant fields, one Missouri House-appointed member and another from the state Senate.

However, the commission has for years, and through multiple gubernatorial administrations, suffered from vacancies and been unable to get replacements for members once their terms expire, as the News Tribune reported last year in an examination of the state's preparedness for a New Madrid earthquake.

Six seats were listed as vacant and eight members were serving on expired terms, according to the commission's 2017 report to then-Gov. Eric Greitens.

This year, in the latest annual report, delivered to Gov. Mike Parson, the commission had seven vacant seats — for representatives of insurance, public education, mechanical engineering, the American Red Cross, geology, business and emergency management — and all eight remaining members serving on expired terms, five expired since 2012 and one since 2010.

Jeff Briggs, SEMA's earthquake program manager, confirmed the list in the report dated from June was still up to date.

Commissioners volunteer to serve until replaced by new appointees. Commission members serve without compensation, but can receive $50 "for each day devoted to the affairs of the commission," according to state statute.

"We have been working with the new governor's boards and commissions office," Briggs said, adding "they are very receptive to our needs" and are working to get spots filled.

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