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Voters pass Cape's TTF3

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Four of five voters approve the city's second transportation sales tax extension.

Cape Girardeau voters Tuesday overwhelmingly extended the city's transportation sales tax for another five years. The measure passed by a margin of 81.6 percent to 18.4 percent.

Smiling city officials and tax supporters celebrated the election victory with cookies and soft drinks at city hall.

The polls closed at 7 p.m. By 7:30 p.m., the voting trend was clear.

The half-cent sales tax passed by a vote of 1,713 for to 386 against. It passed in all but one of the 14 city precincts, in many cases by wide margins. The tax also won among absentee voters.

The measure was narrowly defeated in Precinct 9 where 10 of 18 voters opposed the tax. That precinct includes the area along South West End Boulevard.

Only 8.6 percent of the city's more than 24,000 registered voters went to the polls in Tuesday's special election.

But the low turnout didn't detract from the victory, officials said. "At least they voted the right way," Councilwoman Evelyn Boardman said.

She said the fact the issue was a tax extension rather than a new tax made it easier to pass.

Voters first approved the half-cent transportation sales tax in 1995 and extended it for another five years in 2000. But Tuesday's margin of victory was much wider than in either of the previous two transportation tax elections.

Mayor Jay Knudtson, who had a family commitment Tuesday night, was unable to attend the victory celebration at City Hall.

But in a telephone interview, Knudtson credited the election victory to a solid plan for road improvements and the city's history of keeping its past promises on street projects.

"We are ready to continue the mission," the mayor said.

The tax is expected to generate an estimated $20.3 million for street improvements, including $11.9 million to construct nine major road projects.

Planning and zoning commissioner Harry Rediger, who championed the first transportation sales tax a decade ago, said the city's track record in spending the tax helped sell the tax extension to voters.

"I think citizens basically just like what we are doing," he said. "They like the road map, both past and present."

Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Skip Smallwood said his advisory board spent a year and a half putting together the current improvements plan.

He said the plan includes road work in every part of the city. That was a major factor in selling it to the voters, he said.

At the A.C. Arena Building polling place, several city residents said they voted for the tax extension both because of the new projects the tax would fund as well as because of what's been constructed with the trust-fund tax in past years.

Linda Dillman said she voted to extend the tax so the city can continue to make street improvements. "I think we have a lot more work that needs to be done on our streets," she said.

Jim Watkins said the city's 10-year record of making street improvements made it easy for him to vote for the tax extension. "Credibility is the key word in my mind," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123


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