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By a 2-1 vote Tuesday, the Cole County Commission chose a different lobbying firm to represent the county at the state Capitol.

At Tuesday's commission meeting, R.J. Scherr & Associates of Jefferson City was awarded the contract. Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman and Western District Commissioner Harry Otto voted in favor of the contract; Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher voted against, saying he had nothing against the firm, just the amount of money that was being paid.

"We interviewed a couple of groups that I thought would be good choices, and then we talked to the Scherr group and asked for them to send a proposal back along with a price for their services," Hoelscher said later Tuesday. "The commission accepted their proposal and price, and I just thought we should have tried to negotiate more on the price.

"I thought we should see how much we could get for, say, the first three months, but we didn't," he said. "I am familiar with the Scherr group and what they do, and I'm comfortable with them representing us."

According to the contract, Scherr will be paid a fee of $4,000 a month, starting next month and running through June, plus documented expenses incurred on behalf of the commission. Upon mutual consideration, the contract can be extended for $4,000 per month for up to three 12-month periods beginning in July.

In February, the County Commission hired Strategic Capitol Consulting, the lobbying group Cole County first contracted with in 2018, to provide consulting services for the county for six months.

Strategic was to monitor legislation in the Missouri General Assembly that could affect the county and lobby the executive branch of state government on behalf of the commission.

The contract called for the county to pay Strategic $5,000 per month for a total of $30,000, the amount the commission had set aside in its 2021 budget.

The agreement with Strategic Capital ended in June; the county bid out the services for 2022 in September.

Multiple vendors submitted applications, and the commission met in closed session to interview the applicants before making the final decision Tuesday.

The contract with Scherr calls for the lobbyists to provide regular updates during the legislative session and to inform commissioners of any regulatory matters that may be of interest to the commission.

Also Tuesday, by a 2-1 vote the commission approved giving county employees 12 holidays off in 2022 along with a floating holiday. Bushman and Otto voted in favor; Hoelscher voted against it.

Holescher proposed to adopt the schedule without the floating holiday, but Bushman and Otto voted against it.

"I'm fine with the schedule, but I think we should get rid of the floating one because we seem to be adding more holidays on the schedule," Hoelscher said.

Cole County Auditor Kristen Berhorst said, "From a family perspective, I think you'd run into problems with that because the floating gives employees flexibility to take a day that the state is off and we aren't and not have to worry about child care and come to work because many child care facilities close when the state is on holiday. Some employees appreciate the holidays just as much as more pay."

Compared to the state of Missouri, which observes 14 holidays, the county will not take off for Lincoln or Truman's birthday. The county schedule does include the new federal and state holiday of Juneteeth, which in 2022 will be observed June 20. The floating holiday is for employees who are employed with the county as of Jan. 1, 2022.

There was a separate order covering holidays for the County Emergency Medical Service.

Earlier this year, the commission made a change regarding holiday pay for EMS personnel where they would receive double time for holidays they work and no pay if they don't work.

This plan came about to try and get EMS personnel to work holidays after employees told EMS administrators a bonus would give more incentive to work.

Cole County EMS also now observes holidays on the date of the holiday.

The list of holidays the EMS service will observe includes New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, in an effort to give those working the actual holiday some time off to be with their families since they are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service. EMS administrative personnel will follow the rest of the county employees' holiday list. EMS hourly employees will not get the floating holiday.

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