Candidates in Delta say time for arguing over

Friday, March 30, 2007

The candidates for the Delta Board of Aldermen are agreed -- it is time to put the bickering behind and concentrate on serious problems confronting the south Cape Girardeau County town of about 500.

In the past two years, the four-member board has had 10 people seated for varying lengths of time. None of the members elected in April 2005 or last year is still on the board. The election Tuesday will fill each seat, with two members taking their posts to fill unexpired terms and two who will be elected for full two-year terms.

Each of the candidates agrees the sewer system needs work and water issues must be addressed. The town must seek grants because it can't afford the repairs and needs stability to get the money, the contenders said.

The most recent shake-up took place in February, when the mayor elected last year, Carol Collins, stepped aside because she violated the Missouri Constitution's ban on nepotism by appointing her brother-in-law, Dale Hobeck, to a seat on the board. She was replaced by Ward 2 Alderwoman Bonnie Bradshaw, who was appointed to her seat after Charles Hodges resigned.

Bradshaw then appointed Collins to take the seat she vacated to become mayor.

On Tuesday, Hobeck and former board member Hughes Lesch will win seats on the board by default to represent Ward 1. Incumbent Alderman Rick Cobb, who has said he wanted to run as a write-in candidate against Lesch, will not be eligible for election because he didn't file the required declaration with County Clerk Kara Clark.

Cobb resigned his seat and withdrew from the election after learning about a new law that bars convicted felons from office. He was reappointed after the Missouri secretary of state issued an opinion that the law didn't apply to municipal offices, but it was too late to regain a ballot spot.

In Ward 2, Bradshaw faces Harold Looney in the only race with two candidates on the ballot. The winner will serve out the final year of an unexpired term.

In the other Ward 2 spot, incumbent Alderman Dennis "Slim" Bowers is seeking election to a full two-year term as a write-in candidate, as is Collins. Because the ballot for the seat is blank, neither was required to file a declaration of candidacy. Bowers filed for a new term, but he was kicked off the ballot in January for unpaid taxes. He has since settled his tax bill.

The mayor's office is not on the ballot because the turnover occurred after the deadline for certifying the ballot.

The town's difficulties made headlines in January and February over the nepotism allegations as well as a heated dispute between city collector Beverly Keesee -- who with three years in office is the longest-serving elected official in Delta -- and Collins. The dispute included accusations of possible computer tampering and disagreements over Collins' decision to remove walls separating the offices of mayor, city clerk and collector.

Looney and Bowers are running as a team, hoping that mutual support will help them win seats. "We need a board that is going to stay on there and do what they are supposed to do," Bowers said. "They don't need all the fighting and the arguing."

The election should settle the disputes because it will reflect the town's will, Bradshaw said. "We need to get an elected board on there before you decide what you are going to do for mayor," she said.

The town was in the midst of seeking federal grants to repair the water and sewer system when the leadership disruptions occurred. All the candidates agreed the town needs to paint its water tower, dredge its sewage lagoon, repair leaking sewer pipes and install higher-capacity water mains to improve pressure and fire protection.

One benefit of the disruptions, Collins said, is that more people are paying attention to town business. "They are more aware of how their city is run, that is one thing," she said. "They need to know what the issues are and have their input."

Town finances may support the paint job for the water tower, Collins said, but the residents can't afford to do much more on their own.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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