Top Steelville news stories of 2017

Gibbs Care Center closes, sells, plans to reopen as Steelville Senior Living

After 40 years of providing long-term nursing care to the community, Gibbs Care Center and Gibbs Manor closed its doors in February, with a closure that impacted 36 residents and 75 employees.

The closure followed information released on January 16 reporting that the facility had issues with mold growth, a problem discovered during an assessment of air quality in August of 2016.

The board of directors had been seeking solutions to address the problem since that time, but when the center’s medical director expressed concern about the levels of exposure to residents and staff, the board realized a need to move more quickly towards making a decision on how to handle the issue.

The board researched options and released information along the way. The initial report included handouts that answered a number of questions related to the problem, including the potential need to close the facility.

A second update, following a meeting with the environmental and architectural engineers on January 17, expressed hope for a positive solution. It stated, “The board is reasonably confident the facility will not need to close while we execute the plan to remediate and clean one area of the building at a time.” It did, however, include the caveat that the problem remained a “big challenge by any standard,” and the board was still awaiting more accurate cost estimates for the project.

In the meantime, the board implemented a plan to eliminate the minor issues found in the therapy wing of the facility, beginning on January 23 and completed on January 27.

Update #3 came after a board meeting on January 24, and briefly noted the “challenges remain serious” and that information coming over the next couple of days would provide a clearer picture of the situation.

On January 27, the board released another update that noted estimates for the HVAC portion of the remediation project, along with the structural, electrical, and architectural requirements showed it was “unlikely we can afford this expense with current reserves.”

A final Air Quality Program update provided by the board stated, “The board assures everyone that all options and alternatives have been considered and studied at length. We met many, many times with the state regulatory agencies, our medical director, environmental specialists, and engineers before reaching this most difficult decision. Simply stated, the remediation process with residents in the facilities is not medically or financially feasible.”

After closure, the board continued to explore alternatives in providing healthcare services to the community in the future, and in September announced that Steelville would once again be home to a skilled nursing facility, following the sale of the former Gibbs Care Center to JMS Senior Living.

JMS Senior Living CEO Ben Scheulen noted the community shouldn’t see any major changes from what it is accustomed to as far as the services provided. The facility will again offer both skilled nursing and residential care, in addition to short-term rehabilitation. Select Rehab is their rehab partner. They will also accept both Medicaid and Medicare.

“We are very fortunate,” said Bill Cape, a member of the governing board of Gibbs. “This is the right solution for the community and for residents who need this care. The Gibbs board is very pleased we were able to consummate this deal.”

The facility is called Steelville Senior Living, and is a joint venture between Scheulen, JMS Senior Living Clinical Director Heather Bax, and the founders and owners of the other JMS facilities – the Juckette family. Scheulen and Bax run eight other long-term care facilities in mid-Missouri for JMS Senior Living, one of which is in Rolla.

Work has been underway at the facility to prepare for the influx of new residents.


Wilkerson named Citizen of the Year; FCNB was Business of the Year

Cheryl Wilkerson was named the 2016 Citizen of the Year at the Steelville Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet in February.

The letter written to the chamber to nominate Wilkerson as Citizen of the Year included details about her service to the community, including her work to promote tourism in the area, as coordinator of the Harvest Festival Queen Pageant for the past 32 years, and in supporting the Steelville R-3 School District.

First Community National Bank was awarded Business of the Year for 2016. Information on the bank detailed its history, beginning with the establishment on March 16, 1906 of the Bank of Leasburg and its move to Steelville in 1929, when the name was changed to Community Bank. In 1961, the role of president was turned over to L.J. “Tick” Perkins. He was CEO and president until 1976, when the family operations were turned over to his son Paul E. Perkins. Community Bank moved again in 1979 to its current location at 402 W. Main Street in Steelville.

In 1983, the bank’s name changed to First Community National Bank as a result of the plans to open a second location in Cuba. Since then, the bank has expanded and grown to include branches in Cuba, Sullivan, Vienna, Eureka, and two locations in Rolla.

Under the leadership of Chairman of the Board Paul Perkins, the family operations have now expanded to the third generation with Scott Perkins serving as president and CEO of FCNB, and Julie Perkins Settles serving as the president of FCNB Insurance and FCNB Financial.


School looks at facility planning needs

The Steelville School Board hired an architectural firm to assist with planning for property needs for the district. “This should be a driving force on not only what we do in the future, but it will probably guide what we decide to do funding-wise in the next few years,” Superintendent Mike Whittaker said. “Through this process, we will find out what we need to do and how we need to do it.”

In March, the school board approved a contract for architect services with Ittner Architects, of St. Louis, as well as the scope of services submitted by the firm, at a total cost of $19,700.

The scope of services has assisted the board as it prepares a 2017 Facilities Master Plan. This plan is intended to help the board as it makes decisions regarding the most pressing priorities including determining a site location for the district’s bus shed; providing a recommendation regarding the old middle school building; prioritizing general building repairs across all buildings; creating a site development plan for the elementary and middle school site, addressing the playground, vehicular circulation, and expansion; determining how to address the space needs of growing elementary enrollments including a new elementary school; and reviewing the athletic complex, recommending future growth regarding buying new land.

In its scope of services, Ittner noted that a new high school is not feasible based upon the foreseeable student growth or funding, and would therefore not be included in this study. 

The planning process took about four months to complete and included community engagement through a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), in addition to the involvement of faculty and staff, administration, and the board of education.

In June, the board decided to build a new bus shed on the downtown campus property, and in July, received a facilities master plan recommendation.

The recommended project list included six short-term options and one long-term option. Short-term projects were listed in priority order as follows:

  1. Build the bus barn on the current elementary and middle school site, as directed by the school board. The next step in this process will include preliminary design work and cost estimates, a land survey, and soil borings.
  2. Replace the old middle school roof.
  3. Demolish the former Brown Shoe concrete slab.
  4. Enhance the safety of the elementary school window walls by employing a “robust but economical” strategy, such as boulders or bollards.
  5. Replace and add sidewalks around the elementary and middle school campus.
  6. Improve the current elementary and middle school campus drop‐off area.

The long-term project presented by the committee and architect was to replace the elementary school, beginning with phase one that could include a new gym, library and classrooms. The first step in this process would include space programming, conceptual designs, and cost estimates.

Continued research and planning has included environmental studies on the old middle school building, and revisions to plans for the bus shed at the downtown campus.


Municipal election brings in new fire board members

In 2016, Steelville voters agreed to increase the board that governs the Steelville Fire Protection District from three members to five. In 2017, voters selected the additional members: Michael Abbott and Kerry Summers, Jr. The newly-elected board members will serve six-year terms.

No other open positions were contested on the April ballot.

For the city of Steelville, Michael Sherman was the sole candidate for City Marshall. He was elected to serve the remaining year of a four-year term vacated when previous City Marshal Lydle Davis retired at the end of 2016. Two aldermanic seats were open on the city council – one for each ward – and incumbents were the only candidates. William Bennett was chosen to continue in his role as alderman for Ward 1 and Sharon Hubbard to serve as alderwoman for Ward 2. Both will serve two-year terms.


Heavy rains flood Steelville in April

Flash flooding in the Steelville area led to three swift water rescues, as well as a number of road and bridge closures. Several local businesses and residences were flooded, as well as the basement of the old middle school building.

Steelville Fire Protection District Chief Joe Smart reported two rescues near Cook Station on Saturday, April 29. One was for a stalled vehicle in a water-covered roadway, and another for a woman who was trapped in her residence. For both, Missouri State Highway Patrol (now combined with Water Patrol) made the rescues with their equipment and personnel, while SFPD provided support. On Sunday, April 30, first responders were again dispatched to a swift water rescue, this one near the Birds Nest river access, for three people – one adult and two children – who were in the water, holding on to a tree. MSHP officers were able to rescue the subjects off of the river and assist them to the supporting units on the south bank of the river. All units and victims were safely removed from the river with no reported injuries.

The SFPD also received a call for assistance on Church Street, where the people were afraid their residence was in danger of flooding. They were able to walk out, however, and were picked up by the ambulance crew who arrived first at the scene.

SFPD personnel responded to multiple calls of stranded motorists as well as trapped residents over the weekend. The fire station in Steelville was opened as a shelter to those in need.

Firefighters also assisted other emergency personnel, including the Steelville Police Department, in evacuating the mobile home park on Cedar Street. SPD Chief Mike Sherman reported, “We had to evacuate the trailer park at the end of Cedar Street three different times, and that was after they were warned about it possibly flooding before the rain started.”

All the low-water bridges in town were closed due to the high water. Frisco Street flooded near Ferrell Gas and had to be shut down. Hickory Street near the White Eagle was also covered in water.

Sandbags were placed around the county offices along Second Street as a precaution, and at the Steelville Telephone Building where rising water reached the back of the building. Both STE and Crawford County E911 officials, along with other volunteers, worked to create a barrier to prevent the water from entering the building where the county’s emergency dispatch office is located. E911 Director Scott Cason reported water reached the north end of the parking lot and the north side of the building, but it did not get inside the structure.

Public Works Supervisor Tommy Murray knocked out the back wall of the garage portion of the old city hall building on 2nd Street in order to ensure it didn’t create a dam for the floodwaters. There was also significant flooding from runoff along Frisco and Cedar streets due to what appeared to be a number of clogged pipes that forced water out of the ditches.

The White Eagle apartment building near Cedar and Hickory streets was surrounded by water and had some get into the structure.

On the lower end of the city, the Community Park was nearly half underwater as a result of the combined flow of the Yadkin and Whittenburg creeks. Sandbags were also put into place on the front doors of St. Michael’s Catholic Church.

School was canceled in Steelville for the Monday after the weekend’s rains with Superintendent Mike Whittaker citing concerns about the safety of several of the district’s bus routes.

The downtown school campus also had issues with water inside the old middle school building and elementary, after the entire front lawn and parking area filled with water on Saturday.


SHS Class of 2017 celebrates graduation

Forty-six graduates received diplomas at Steelville High School on Sunday, May 14. Jon Davis was valedictorian of his class, and Drew Whittaker was the salutatorian. Davis spoke about “change,” and Whittaker used the topic of “shoes” to offer advice to his fellow graduates for their future endeavors.

The Scholastic Honors Group – the top ten students in the class – were recognized. Those students were Kyle Bean, Johnathon Booker, Makenzie Carey, Cayman Cottrell, Jonathan Davis, Alexis Diaz, Jacob Sutton, Gabrianna Verble, Andrew Whittaker, and Sierra Worthington.


Steelville Tourism Committee is formed

With the blessing of the Steelville City Council, a new committee to promote tourism in the area was created. Chrissie Sherman and Jennifer Whitson approached the council in August to talk about their idea to coordinate local groups who work to bring visitors into the city and to sponsor events for the community. 

The committee first hosted a 5k/2k Music Run/Walk in October. The theme was “Run It, See It, Hear It: Canoe Do It?” The race started at the First Assembly of God parking lot, twisted through town, and ended at the Community Park (walkers who choose the 2k option will finish at Spare Rib Inn). The event featured local musicians eager to showcase their talents and motivate participants during the race.

The tourism committee also planned several Christmas events, including bringing the Christmas parade back to town, and helped publicize holiday events sponsored by others in the community.


New Steelville royalty is crowned

Steelville High School Senior Alma Sehic was crowned the 2017 Harvest Festival Queen in September. She is the daughter of Eddie Sehic and Tara Brutcher and was sponsored by Hair and Body Care Unlimited. She was escorted by J.J. Godwyn, the son of Wes and Judy Godwyn.

The first runner-up was Raelyn Greer, who was also the talent winner. Raelyn is the daughter of Brian and April Greer. She was sponsored by Bass’ River Resort. She was escorted by Garrett Becker, the son of Jim and Valley Becker.

The second runner-up was Elizabeth Hilliker, who was also named Miss Congeniality and won the interview portion of the pageant. She is the daughter of Lisa Hilliker, and was sponsored by Country Mart. She was escorted by Maxwell Swyers, son of Matthew and Patricia Swyers.

Others in this year’s pageant included: Timber Adams, daughter of Nick and Becky Adams, who was sponsored by Bass Farms and escorted by Trent Bass; Heather Cornick, daughter of Robert Cornick and Cinnamon Michalik, who was sponsored by Huzzah Valley and escorted by Nolan Halbert; Melody Vernon, daughter of Curtis and Melina Vernon, who was sponsored by On the Run and escorted by Justus Conaway; Carissa Harmon, daughter of Jimmy and Jennifer Harmon, who was sponsored by Shelter Insurance and escorted by Blake Gibbs; and Kaylee Hutson, daughter of Bobby and Christina Hutson, who was sponsored by Peoples Bank and escorted by J.R. Pontious.

This year’s retiring queen was Cayman Cottrell, who is a 2017 graduate of Steelville High School and currently attends the University of Mississippi. She is the daughter of Corey and Tonya Cottrell. The flower girl was Megan Troutt, daughter of Jonny and Tiffany Troutt and the crown bearer was Nolen Reidler, son of Brian and Jennifer Reidler.

December saw a new Christmas Prince and Princess, and a new Junior Miss Steelville.

Crosby Bratcher and Kadence Harmon were crowned the 2017 Christmas Prince and Princess in Steelville. Crosby is the four-year-old son of George and Sheena Bratcher. Kadence Harmon is the four-year-old daughter of Mikie and Mahrysa Harmon.

Carden Richardon, was first runner-up to the prince. He is the four-year-old son of Jerry and Becky Richardson. Paislee Summers, first runner-up to the princess, is the three-year-old daughter of Kerry and Becky Summers.

The Retiring Prince and Princess were Jordan Boone, the son of Richard and Heather Boone, and Allie Lee Swyers, the daughter of Allen and Amanda Swyers.

Haylee Williams is the 2017 Junior Miss Steelville. Haylee is the 10-year-old daughter of Matthew and Heather Williams.

Lydia Smelser, the daughter of Vance and Natasha Smelser, was first runner-up. Bella Rose Cardoni, the daughter of Peggy Alexander and Tim Cardoni, was second runner-up.


City gets new clerk    

The city of Steelville gained a new clerk following the resignation of former Clerk Sheila Anderson in August. The council agreed to seek applications, and removed the city residency requirement from the ordinance governing the position in September.

Sandy Richter was sworn in to take over duties as City Clerk for the city of Steelville at the council meeting on October 2. She had served with the city as Utility Billing Clerk for several years. Sherri Cornick took over those duties.


Steelville youth take top MCB award

Steelville’s Missouri Community Betterment Youth Group won the top honors at the annual MCB conference held last month. This is the second year in a row Steelville’s youth have won this state-level award. The youth also took first place in Steelville’s category, while the community was ranked fourth.

The MCB J.C. Smith Youth Group of the Year Award is given annually to the community that demonstrates an outstanding commitment to developing future community leaders, teaching responsibility, and mentoring youth.

Steelville also had six youth chosen to serve on the MCB Youth Advisory Board for the upcoming year.

The Steelville community has been involved with MCB since its inception in 1964. That year, the community took first place in its category and the late Ava Viehman was honored with an adult leadership award.


Old City Hall is demolished

After moving the main offices of the city of Steelville to the former San Val factory after flooding in 2015, city council members had discussed demolition of the old downtown building repeatedly.

Roofing and trusses had been removed for re-use, and Public Works Supervisor Tom Murray worked on demolition of the structure until discovering portions of the building had concrete walls.

Late in the year, the council agreed to hire P.J. Myers to complete the demolition project since the structure was then a hazard as it was partially deconstructed.