Flow of communication, storm water discussed

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sunshine and storm water took center stage Thursday at a Cape Girardeau County Commission meeting.

Sunshine, as in the Missouri Sunshine Law, was the focus of a half-hour discussion of how the commission can keep the public better informed of its agendas and actions.

Storm water was on the agenda as members of the Storm Water Committee presented a proposed ordinance to control runoff from new developments in unincorporated areas.

Commissioners took no action on either subject. The ideas presented, however, are likely to become the basis for future decisions.

A review of Internet postings by other counties revealed that Cape Girardeau County is in the middle of the pack in the way it shares information about official actions, Commissioner Jay Purcell said.

"There is always room to improve," he said. "I found some that do a lesser job than we do and some that do a much better job."

Purcell distributed copies of the minutes of a Boone County Commission meeting from May and said the way commissioners conduct business there could be a model for Cape Girardeau County.

Commissioners in Boone County in central Missouri get two looks at almost every decision. Items are presented for discussion, then moved to a future agenda, usually the next meeting, for a final decision. That allows the public a chance to comment on pending items.

Too often, Purcell said, the Cape Girardeau County Commission is presented with requests for immediate action from county officeholders. He said it reminded him of a sign he had seen stating: "Lack of planning on your part does not make it an emergency on my part."

"Before long, everything is an emergency," Purcell said.

Some actions, Commissioner Larry Bock noted, are "cut and dried" and of little consequence to the public. For example, the commission recently approved the purchase of envelopes for County Collector Diane Diebold to send out tax bills without formally placing the decision on the agenda.

"She's got to have envelopes to send out bills to taxpayers," Bock said.

Commissioners spend a portion of every meeting initialing letters, reports and other items from county officials, state agencies and others. Under county rules set by the commission, they must approve all purchases more than $150 and changes in status or pay of many county employees.

Commissioners did not set a date for further discussions.

The discussion of a proposed storm-water control ordinance immediately followed the session on the Sunshine Law. Stan Murray of the Soil and Water Conservation District and several other members of the committee that drafted the ordinance presented their work.

The proposal requires a plan for controlling storm water to be filed with each residential development of three or more homes and any commercial development covering 5,000 square feet of ground. Agricultural construction is exempt.

During their questioning, commissioners focused on whether the commercial requirement is too restrictive and how the ordinance would be enforced.

Both Cape Girardeau and Jackson have staff dedicated to enforcing land-use rules, Jones said. "We don't have a staff," he said. "Who is going to enforce it?"

Roger Arnzen, the county's flood plain manger, recommended that commissioners decide who will be responsible for maintaining compliance before passing the ordinance.

"If you do enact this, if you don't enforce it it will be worthless," Arnzen said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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