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Without revenue, the village of Biehle vanishes

Friday, November 14, 2003

BIEHLE, Mo. -- A financial drought has claimed the village of Biehle and ended its official existence.

Twelve years ago, the Buchheit family initiated the town's incorporation to fund a fire district. But the sales tax fount that once enabled Biehle to pay for its basic operating costs and fund the surrounding fire district has dried up, and the village was disincorporated earlier this month.

The sole sales tax-producing business in Biehle was Buchheit Inc., a farm and building supply store. The business moved most of its sales to Perryville and Jackson locations in 2000, according to Doug Buchheit of the company's corporate office.

The business still registers some sales out of Biehle, including a feed manufacturing facility, equipment rental and a power equipment shop, he said.

But without the full retail operation, the village of 11 people ceased to have any significant source of revenue.

Though the community that makes up Biehle has existed for more than 100 years, it was incorporated in 1991 by the Buchheit family to fund a fire protection district in the 56-acre community.

A fire destroyed the family's business in April 1986. The family found a way to get fire protection for the business and for neighbors by creating the Biehle Community Fire Protection Association. The district operated with about 18 volunteer firemen who protected a five-mile radius.

Before the formation of the new fire district, the closest service to the area was 10 miles away in Perryville. Shortly after the forming the district, seven of the village's eight voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to help buy a fire truck and equipment. Sales tax revenue began rolling in July 1, 1992. Twenty-five percent went to the town for operating costs -- legal and bookkeeping expenses and a reserve fund -- and the rest went to the fire district.

Exact figures weren't available Thursday, but previous retail sales tax estimates ranged from $80,000 to $90,000.

Jackson lawyer Kim Moore, who handled the disincorporation, described the process: "There are two methods allowed by the state statutes," he said. "One being an election, in which 60 percent of the votes cast must be in favor of disincorporating for it to be passed. Or, in towns with a population of under 100, you can do it by petition, which is the method we used."

The petition required signatures from 60 percent of the registered voters in Biehle -- basically a few people -- before it could be presented to the county commission.

Afterward, the commission appointed Tim Buchheit, president of the family business, to be a trustee to "wind up the affairs" of Biehle, Moore said. After the trustee reported back to the commission, the three members voted on the disincorporation.

"There was about $12,000 on hand," Moore said. "After the final expenses were paid, there was almost $9,000 left that was turned over to the fire district."

Moore said the fire district will continue to operate. Most rural fire districts are funded by a property tax or membership fees, but Moore isn't sure where new money for the district will come from.

Efforts to reach Biehle's fire district chief, Bernie Hoernig, for comment were unsuccessful.


335-6611, extension 160

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