Business leaders say Oran's chief hurting commerce

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

ORAN, Mo. -- A group of business owners in Oran says Police Chief Marc Tragesser is ruining the small town's economy.

Representatives of the Oran Business Betterment Association, made up of 28 business owners, attended Tuesday night's city council meeting. The group requested the council go into closed session to discuss the chief, talking behind closed doors for about an hour.

Since Tragesser took over as chief in August numerous complaints have been voiced that his policing style is too aggressive. Former chief Howard Stevens rarely wrote citations. Tragesser has also expanded the police department with the hiring of an additional officer and increased the number of hours an officer is on duty.

A statement written by association president Michael S. McVay claims Tragesser's aggressive approach to law enforcement has negatively impacted local business. The statement claims Otter's Bar and Grill has lost $40,000 in gross revenues over the past 20 weeks, while other businesses have reported similar losses.

"As we meet here tonight, we are faced with a dilemma of historical proportions for our great town of Oran," the statement said. "Our community has undeniably been torn into two pieces.

"This segregation cannot be denied, and when it comes down to the heart of the matter ... the basis for our struggle is over one man's determination to enforce the law."

The organization used sales tax receipts as part of the basis for its argument.

Sales tax receipts produced by the city collector showed a decline in receipts from September through November and an increase in December. The low month for the year was May, before Tragesser took office in August.

Judi Henson, acting as spokesperson for the organization, declined repeated requests for comment.

Mayor Tom Urhahn said he feels the business owners and the chief will be able to forge a peaceful co-existence, and that he believes the chief is doing a good job.

"It may not be what everybody wants, but the decision will be for the betterment of the whole town," Urhahn said.

Council member Leroy Eftink also supports Tragesser.

"I really can't see anything that he's done wrong," said Eftink.

Oran resident Glenn Pobst said he feels the people complaining about the chief's job are part of a "very vocal minority."

The issue will be discussed again at a special council meeting Monday, but discussion will again take place in closed session.

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