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Council approves new districts, ARPA funding and employee pay
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It was a busy night for the St. Joseph City Council as it approved a new district map, the citizen committee’s recommended American Rescue Plan Act funding list and $1.5 million in premium pay for city employees.

The council had four options for the new districts. Two used estimated data, while the other two used the most recent census numbers.

The vote came down to the design. For the past couple of months, the council was split between a quadrant-style map and one where the districts ran from the Missouri River to Riverside Road.

City Councilman Madison Davis has been in favor of the east to west districts from the beginning.

“Those were the ones that had the most scientific data that backed the proposal, and the population levels are most closely aligned,” Davis said.

Tuesday, during the meeting, the council voted 7-2 in favor of the original Plan 2. This proposal was four distinct quadrants made from rooftop estimates and the 2019 American Community Survey data. City Councilmen Brian Myers and Davis dissented.

Courtesy of the City of St. Joseph 

Pictured above is Proposal 2 for the new council districts.

The council also voted 8-1 to approve the citizen committee’s recommended list of American Rescue Plan Act funded projects, worth $13 million. City Councilman PJ Kovac dissented.

Courtesy of the City of St. Joseph 

The initial recommended project list for the $13 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds. This list doesn’t include the recently added $1.5 million for city employee pay.

“I think the committee did a good job of trying to look through the list and see what things that were there that could both align with the requirements that were passed out in the federal government, as well as with the strategic plan we put together,” Davis said.

However, some on the council wanted to pull the resolution from the agenda to get more information on each project. City Manager Bryan Carter said each recipient of the funds would have to draft a contract with the city. Those contracts will then be individually approved by the council. He recommended to use the second approval phase as an opportunity to gather more information and ask questions to each recipient.

Citizens that didn’t receive funds said the process wasn’t fair and discriminated against small businesses, as a total of 21 organizations received nearly $13 million.

Some of those organizations also received CARES Act money or Community Development Block Grants, including $45,000 to Pivotal Point and $500,000 to Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph.

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, the council unanimously agreed to allocate $1.5 million, from the $5 million to be used for the sewer, for premium employee pay. Sewer rates will still remain stagnant for at least a year with the $3.5 million.

Any full-time city employees that are considered essential workers, and have been with the city at least six months, will receive a lump sum of $2,000. Part-time employees will get $1,500.

“The ARPA funding in general, from the beginning, whether it be the $5 million that the mayor and others withdrew for it, I think there’s been little planning,” Davis said. “If we’re going to give a million and a half to employee pay, then why did we set aside $5 million for sewers? It’s all knee-jerk reactions. At least we had the committee to put some thoughtful planning behind it.”

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Police chief: About 70% of local assaults are domestic disputes
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An increasing trend of aggravated domestic assault situations is causing concern for officers with the St. Joseph Police Department.

According to Police Chief Chris Connally, almost 70% of aggravated assault calls in St. Joseph are related to domestic abuse.

“Last year, about 38% of our aggravated assaults were domestic-related. This year, about 70% or better are domestic-related,” he said. “So what we are really seeing is the increase in domestic aggravated assaults. We’ve actually seen a little bit of decrease in the simple domestic assault.”

Connally said simple aggravated assaults mean those with no serious bodily injuries. But the aggravated assault calls officers are seeing more of look a little different.

“If there’s any type of choking, that automatically jumps it up to aggravated. Broken bones, stitches, a little more serious injuries. Anything with a cutting or a firearm. Those are going to jump up to what we call aggravated domestic assault,” he said.

Calls for aggravated assault this year already have surpassed last year’s total. Connally said this increase is a big concern for officers, but it’s hard for them to tackle the problem alone.

“Domestic abuse is, it’s a serious issue in our community and across the country. It can affect anyone of any socioeconomic background,” he said. “And the truth is about 68% of all assaults in our city that are reported to police are domestic. This is one of those things that’s very difficult from a police perspective. It’s difficult for us to intervene as far as prevention, so probably the biggest thing is getting awareness out there.”

Connally said he will be speaking with domestic violence advocates and the Community Police Advisory Committee in order to work on ideas to help reduce the number of abuse incidents.

The YWCA St. Joseph has a 24/7 hotline victims can call to receive help. It can be reached at 800-653-1477, and victims also can visit the website YWCASJ.org. Advocates conduct lethality reports for victims to determine what danger they might be in and if they can help with escape planning.

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Doctors warn against ivermectin use
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A local infectious disease doctor is advising those with COVID-19 against using a controversial drug to treat the illness.

Dr. Scott Folk of Mosaic Life Care said ivermectin, which is used to eliminate parasites and head lice in humans, shouldn’t be taken to fight COVID-19. He said there is no evidence at this point presented by the Food and Drug Administration or the Infectious Disease Society of America that it works to treat the coronavirus.

Folk said there are nine treatments for COVID-19 that have been deemed effective by the FDA. He said the phenomenon of people taking ivermectin, which also is used as a livestock dewormer, started when the drug inhibited the virus in a test tube. However, the quantity needed to reduce COVID-19 in a human would exceed recommended dosage by a high amount and could bring dangerous side effects.

“In order to achieve the blood levels necessary to inhibit the COVID-19 virus, the dose would have to be up to 100-fold higher than approved for human use,” Folk said. “That, in turn, can lead to unwanted adverse effects or toxicities.”

Folk said he is not aware of any people who have been admitted to Mosaic with ivermectin side effects.

However, several people have been treated in Missouri emergency rooms after taking it. Dr. Steven Brown told KMOV-TV that cases of ivermectin toxicity have occurred at Mercy hospitals across the state. Brown is a virtual care physician for Mercy.

“People who are relying upon ivermectin and remaining unvaccinated are under a tremendous false sense of security,” Brown told KMOV-TV. “I have seen people with ivermectin toxicity in the emergency room from taking the animal formulation. I’ve seen people who relied on ivermectin to prevent themselves from getting COVID who are on ventilators and who have died.”

A Mercy spokesman on Tuesday said he didn’t have any further information about the number of illnesses involving ivermectin.

This week, the American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups urged physicians, pharmacists and other prescribers to warn patients against using ivermectin.

Folk said the FDA is the gold standard for medical information, and for now, people should not look to use ivermectin unless it is approved or in a specific trial.

“There are studies that are being done to look more carefully at if there might be a niche role, if you will, for ivermectin in certain COVID patients in certain situations, but that is still a matter of ongoing research,” Folk said. “The bottom line is nobody should be getting ivermectin for prophylaxis or treatment of COVID outside a clinical research trial.”

Folk said antibody infusion treatment is one good option for those who are battling COVID-19 and looking to stay out of the hospital. He added the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best option regarding prevention and reducing the severity of disease, and he is surprised people who are skeptical of the vaccine aren’t questioning the use of ivermectin.

“For a lot of folks, the pace of the pandemic is pushing them harder and they don’t have time to get the answers they’re looking for before they tried to make the decision with the vaccine,” Folk said. “Certainly, though, the vaccine is the best thing that we have to prevent COVID.”

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.