Scott Co. races go to the wire

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Voters decide change is needed on Oran and Chaffee's town boards.

BENTON, Mo. -- Close elections in Oran changed the makeup of the city's board of aldermen Tuesday night and left a mayoral candidate hoping for a recount.

Meanwhile Chaffee's Ward 2 residents voted out incumbent councilman Bob Sullivan, voters in Scott City defeated a 5 percent tax on telecommunications services and Kelso voters overwhelmingly approved a renewal of their fire services tax.

Two new members were elected to the Oran Board of Aldermen: Mike McVay in Ward 2 and Billy Senciboy in Ward 1.

McVay is president of the Oran Business Betterment Association, an organization that has been critical of police chief Marc Tragesser in the past. But McVay didn't run on the police issue, instead touting a platform of healing divisions in the community, generating more revenue and attracting positive attention to the town.

"We had a lot of close elections, which tells me there's still some divisions in the town," said McVay. "People want to see some changes. The No. 1 thing is to bring the community back together."

Senciboy defeated incumbent alderman Harold Landewee by 19 votes. Landewee has been a strong supporter of Tragesser. The challenger hasn't spoken on the record about the chief.

Senciboy said he heard most from people who want to see improvements in the city's drainage ditches and culverts. He had no comment on Tragesser.

McVay won 111 to 101 in a race against Gil Roslen, husband of city collector Marcia Roslen. Roslen ran on a platform of trying to improve the city's image.

The seat was left open when current alderman Ronnie Diebold Jr. decided to run for mayor against incumbent Tom Urhahn and Ben Evans.

Diebold, who lost to Urhahn by only nine votes out of more than 500 cast, said he's hoping for a recount. According to Missouri statute, a difference of 1 percent or less is required for an automatic recount.

Diebold said he thinks Evans' votes would have been votes for him in a two-man race. He said the close race shows that "the majority of the town wanted a change." He said he plans to run for a city office again in the next election.

In another tight Oran race, Ward 3 incumbent Jimmy Westrich defeated Ray Dean Hanselman by only four votes, 72 to 68.

In Chaffee, incumbent Ward 2 councilman Bob Sullivan lost 43 to 31 to challenger Loretta "Rhetta" Mohorc, a local business owner. Sullivan is the father of Robin Dannenmueller, who was charged in February with stealing $1,000 from the city court coffers in her job as court clerk.

The incident and subsequent handling by the city -- the city accepted the $1,000 for restitution and Dannenmueller resigned -- brought about a split in the city council. Three council members -- Debbie Eichhorn in Ward 2, Mike Jobe in Ward 3 and Wayne Hampton in Ward 1 -- said they weren't informed of the discovery of the missing money, the following disciplinary action and the supposed request for a stop to the investigation by someone in the city government until media reports made the information public.

Mohorc had only good things to say about both her opponents, Sullivan and college student Charles "Sean" Huey, Tuesday night. "Bob Sullivan is a fine man, and his shoes will be big ones to fill," she said.

Mohorc said she hopes to be instrumental in helping Chaffee grow but wanted to wait before talking about specifics.

No races were contested in Scott City, but voters easily defeated a proposed 5 percent telecommunications tax 454 to 60. The measure would have put a 5-percent tax on gross receipts for telephone and cell phone service for addresses within the city limits.

A franchise tax of 2.5 on SBC is already in place in Scott City.

Mayor Tim Porch thought voters might not take to the 5 percent tax and urged the city council to consider a lower percentage. Now that the tax has been defeated, he said the city might stand to lose future revenue as telephone users change their service to cellular phones only.

"I'm not a bit upset over the tax not passing, since that's the will of the people and I'm elected to represent them," said Porch. "But it may require a loss of services, too."

A ballot issue for a tax in Kelso passed, though. The tax was a continuation of one already in place of 13 cents on $100 assessed valuation to pay for a fire services contract with the Scott City Fire Department.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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