Sheriff’s deputies and highway patrolmen have moved out of the upper levels of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office because of the severity of the bat roosting problem in the attic. Troop A of the Missouri State Highway Patrol has already moved their offices to a state-owned building in the Truman Hills area of Warsaw, and deputies began moving to spaces in the upper levels of Hawthorn Bank on Monday, July 3.

“Deputies have been working out of their trucks and the 911 building, and even in the secretary’s space when she is off duty,” said Sheriff Eric Knox. “As soon as we get locks in the new space, they will move. There will have to be some remodeling and installation of security to be fully functioning though. Everyone above the first floor has to move. There will only be me, the jailer and the secretary housed on the first floor.”

County Commissioner Jim Hansen said that he is confident that this new space will work well for the deputies, but that the rental contract was to be voted on by the Commission Thursday, July 6.

“We hope to move some personnel presently housed in the courthouse into the spaces one floor down from the deputies,” said Commissioner Hansen. “It will alleviate some space issues in the courthouse.

The severity of the bat problem at the sheriff’s office was recognized in the middle of June after a visit from the executive director of the Missouri Bat Census. She described the sheriff’s office attic as a “massive roost” and identified points of access and exit along the eaves and peaks of the building. County Commissioners contacted Barry Pabst at the Benton County Health Department, and Howard Rue, state public health veterinarian. Rue recommended that conditions be remedied as soon as possible and said that no one should be working on the second floor until then.

Commissioner Hansen said that it would be at least October before bats could be removed so that young bats born during May to July are mature enough to migrate with the adults. The Wildlife Code of Missouri stresses that caution be exercised when addressing bat-related problems. Nine bat species are listed as species of conservation concern, and three are classified as state endangered. Cleanup can only begin after their removal.

“This is going to be a long and unexpected, expensive process,” said Commissioner Hansen.

By Judy Kramer | Benton County Enterprise