River Campus opponent Jim Drury complains to city

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Cape Girardeau businessman Jim Drury complained to the city council Monday night about the city's involvement in the River Campus arts school project and urged the council to put the tax issue before voters again.

But council members said it was too late for that and urged Drury to look for a way that he and the city can move forward together for community betterment.

"If we can get you on board, this community can move forward," Councilman Jay Purcell said.

"You've got to be the hardest headed guy I know," Purcell said as the discussion wore on.

Mayor Jay Knudtson allowed Drury to speak at the end of the televised council meeting. But after about 15 minutes, the council adjourned the meeting.

But all but Councilwoman Evelyn Boardman, who had another appointment, stayed behind for further discussions with Drury after the cameras were turned off.

The mayor said he would like to see the River Campus issue put to rest. But he told Drury that the city needs to move forward. "We can't go back and do anything about the past."

Said Knudtson, "I think if we continue to fight about this we will continue to go nowhere."

Drury told the council he feels ostracized in Cape Girardeau. "I never get a nickel's worth of credit for nothing," he said.

Council members said repeated lawsuits against the city government haven't helped Drury's image.

After the meeting, Knudtson said he hopes the discussion is a first step in trying to resolve differences with Drury that have divided the community.

Drury has filed three lawsuits against the city in recent years and still has the third one pending. He said it's wrong for the city to commit to spending motel and restaurant tax money to help fund a project by Southeast Missouri State University to turn a former Catholic seminary into a visual and performing arts school.

"We're not going to own this thing," he said.

He said past city officials had argued that both the tax issue and a bond issue had to pass in 1998 for the city to invest in the project. The tax issue passed. But a companion bond issue received a simple majority, but not the super majority needed for passage.

Knudtson said past city officials made a mistake in telling voters that both issues had to pass. But the mayor said officials didn't realize at the time that bonds could be issued by a state development board.

Al Stoverink, facilities management director for the university, objected to Drury's remarks.

Stoverink said the majority of voters in the 1998 election supported the River Campus project. "Once again, you are carrying out the will of the people," he told the council.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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