Farmer appeals to Cape County commissioners for aid

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

R. B. Welty, who for 10 years has tried to find someone to help him preserve his farm, turned to the Cape Girardeau County commissioners on Monday. The farm is between Gordonville and Whitewater.

Welty brought a stack of documents from his fight and a handwritten letter addressed to the commissioners.

"I am desperate for an immediate emergency hearing!" he wrote and told the board.

Welty said his 108-acre soybean farm, which includes wetlands, has been at risk since a neighboring farmer dug a drainage ditch and built a series of levees that have the twin effects of draining the wetlands and flooding his crops. He recently lost a court appeal but hoped the commissioners could induce the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has a regional office in Jackson, to help fix the problem.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones asked 1st District Commissioner Larry Bock, who oversees such issues, whether the county could do anything. Bock said there appeared to be no clear legal violation.

"In complete seriousness, it sounds like he needs an advocate," Jones said. "I don't want to turn this man away."

Jones assigned 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell to review the farmer's documents and make inquiries about what could be done.

The commission also held a public hearing to set 2008 tax rates.

"We have the same attendance that we've had for the last several years. None," Jones said.

Auditor David Ludwig did not appear, either, causing the commissioners to momentarily puzzle through some of the documents, until it was made clear that property taxes for the general fund and for road and bridge projects would be a total of zero dollars.

Bock said he was pleased that no property taxes would be used for road and bridge projects, which are funded by the Proposition 1 sales tax. He moved to approve the property sales tax rate; Purcell seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

The commission also decided to:

* Add time on Thursday's agenda for Purcell to outline a new way of using county commission vehicles.

* Authorize Jones to attend the closing for the sale of Cape County North Park land and sign related documents on behalf of the county.

* Approve information technology director Eric McGowen's recommendation to pay Conrad's Satellite Sales $288 for equipment and installation of high-speed Internet service for the county's public administrator. The office is currently using a slow dial-up connection, McGowen said.

He asked to delay a proposal to add a data line to the county's system while he negotiated with AT&T. Bock asked if the county could use another provider and save money, but McGowen said the new price would be based on two lines.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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