Ambulance and fire districts deserve a part of federal funds

    Emergency responders in the southern half of Crawford County have a legitimate complaint about the distribution of payments from the federal government, or lack thereof, the county receives each year. And the county, it seems, made their case even stronger last year when they got voter approval for a new sales tax that included the elimination of county property taxes.


    During a series of recent meetings, emergency providers in the Steelville area made the case to the Crawford County Commission that they should be receiving a share of money the county gets from the U.S. Forest Service each year for the Mark Twain National Forest property it owns in their service areas. These payments, which are made to the county because the National Forest property is not taxed locally, amounted to about $280,000 this year.
    In the past, the county has always kept these payments, which it is permitted to do under federal law. Federal law, however, also allows the county to share these payments with emergency responders, which is what the Steelville ambulance and fire districts are seeking.
    Ethically, the emergency responders have a legitimate argument. Since they cannot collect property taxes on the Forest Service land, aren’t they entitled to a share of that money right along with the county? Both the ambulance and fire districts have property tax levies, while the county does not. Doesn’t that make them even more entitled to the money?
    When the county asked voters to pass a sales tax increase in 2018, it included the elimination of all county property taxes. The county couldn’t tax the federal land now even if it wanted, but both the ambulance and fire districts could.
    The fairest thing for the county to do would be to give all those federal dollars to the fire and ambulance districts. The least the county should do, is share those funds, while keeping some for their own road maintenance and sheriff’s department protection in those area.

Plein Air continues to impact the entire area
    If you missed getting involved in the Steelville Arts Council’s annual Plein Air painting events, which was held last week and covered most of the area from Cuba, to Steelville, and St. James, then don’t miss out on your chance to see some of the fine art that was created during the Plein Air exhibition at Gallery Zeke in downtown Steelville through the end of the month.
    More than 50 artists participated in this year’s event, which culminated in St. James on Friday with one final painting competition and a benefit gala and auction at Just a Taste. By all accounts, this year’s event was another resounding success for the Arts Council.
    A sale was held Saturday at the Community Building in Steelville, but much of the art that didn’t sell is now on display at Gallery Zeke. So, if you ever wanted an original painting from the area, now is the time to act.
    If you are unfamiliar with “plein air” painting, the French term is used to describe the ways artists paint outdoors in just a few hours, just what their eyes can see. During last week’s event, artists created hundreds of fabulous paintings featuring the beauty of our hills and streams, farms and cities.
    The Plein Air exhibition at Gallery Zeke, which is located at 106 E. Main in Steelville, will open on June 13 and run Thursdays, Friday’s and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through June 29.

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