Commission OKs plan for road panel

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Commissioners also discussed their strategy for getting a tax increase passed in August.

With a little nudging from a county resident and a little chiding from County Clerk Rodney Miller, the Cape Girardeau County Commission approved a plan Monday to create an advisory committee to examine road issues.

By a unanimous vote, the commission approved a six-year program that will put blacktop on 54.55 miles of county roads by 2012 if voters approve Proposition 1, a half-cent sales-tax increase on the Aug. 8 ballot.

Along with the list of roads, the commission agreed to the Citizens County Road Advisory Board as outlined by Commissioner Jay Purcell. The board will examine policy issues that have surfaced since the tax was proposed, including the rules for deciding which roads to pave, how to control dust and goals for a paving program.

Proposition 1 would raise about $5.9 million the first year. Money would be set aside to eliminate property taxes on all county residents for road and bridge work, leaving about $3.1 million. That amount would be split between county road projects and the sheriff's office.

Under the proposal approved Monday, funds not needed immediately by the sheriff's office for salary increases and expanded road patrols would be used for dust control or additional paving.

After their vote, commissioners discussed strategy for passing the tax proposal with former county auditor Weldon Macke, who they all agree provided the push that placed the tax measure on the ballot.

In coming days, the commissioners, Macke and Sheriff John Jordan will begin a series of almost daily sessions with civic groups and town meetings. They appeared before the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce board of directors Monday afternoon and the Jackson Board of Aldermen Monday evening.

A town hall meeting at 7:30 p.m. today at the Zion United Methodist Church near Gordonville will be their first public meeting in the rural areas of the county.

The talking tour so far is the only public campaigning either for or against the tax. Macke, asked why no committee has been formed to promote Proposition 1, nodded at the commissioners and said: "I thought they could have done that. We could really be together with a message."

At one point during the discussion, Commissioner Larry Bock had added language directing the new advisory board to "consider" dust control. When he was first elected, Bock noted, a similar committee examined county road and bridge issues "and they sure recommended we get out of the dust control business."

At that point, Delbert Mueller, who lives along County Road 316 and has attended several commission meetings, said dust control was paramount for him. "If you don't have a dust control program today, I am voting against it," he said. "That is absolutely how I feel."

Bock backed off on making any change that called a dust control program into question. Purcell said he sees dust control as an issue that could scuttle the election.

"At this stage, we are asking the citizens to make a commitment, and I think we have to do the same," he said.

Mueller peppered commissioners with questions about who would be on the advisory board, how many members it would have and when it would start working.

The advisory board is a good step, Mueller said. New rules for choosing roads established by an advisory board will win confidence, he said. "Everyone in the county needs an equal chance, and I think this is more equal than it ever has been in the past."

When commissioners replied that they hadn't decided how to establish the board, County Clerk Rodney Miller, who is retiring this year, chimed in with his suggestion: A member from each township, 10 in all, chosen from applicants. That spreads representation to every corner of the county, he said.

"It wouldn't be hard to get your people now and get it going," Miller said. Alluding to Mueller's frustration, he added: "I feel the same way he does. Let's get it going."

335-6611, extension 126

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