New Cape Girardeau County commissioner asks about county long-term plan

Monday, January 5, 2009

When Paul Koeper asked what plan existed for the future growth of Cape Girardeau County, his fellow commissioners said there was none.

Getting a bead on long-term planning was just one of a handful of items Koeper put on Monday's agenda for his initial meeting as Cape Girardeau's 1st District commissioner. The city of Jackson is in the process of revamping its strategic plan and the city of Cape Girardeau last year finalized a new 20-year plan.

"If we have a plan, I need to get my mind around it," Koeper said.

"We don't have a plan," Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said during the meeting. "We made a stab at it at one time, where the commissioners and a few of the other elected officials went to a retreat and sat there all day long and came up with somewhat of a plan down the road."

Jones said that planning session, an attempt to look five to 10 years into the future, resulted in a 5-year-plan for the county park system and another for equipment replacement in the highway administration department.

He said the feasibility of whether the county should pursue expanding into space available at the old federal courthouse, on Broadway in Cape Girardeau, was fading.

The county will need more office space he said, "and that's not an 'if', it's a 'when.'"

But negotiations for the county to assume control of the building have been complicated by the fact that the county would not own the building outright, and would be required to follow federal plans for using the structure. The federal building has been certified as a potential homeless shelter, a process required by law on all vacant federal buildings, though no sheltering agency has stepped forward to use it.

Jones called on former county auditor Weldon Macke, who attended Monday's meeting to discuss road and bridge issues, to ask if he could recall any kind of country strategic plan.

"We had a similar one, back in the dark ages," Macke said. At that, Jones asked Macke about the feasibility that another agency Macke works with, the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development board, could help. Macke, the chairman of the regional planning advisory board, suggested that executive director Chauncey Buchheit be invited to a future commission meeting to talk about strategic planning. Jones said they would extend the invitation.

In other action, the commissioners unanimously approved purchase orders; reappointed county Collector Diane Diebold to the East Missouri Action Agency Board; made appointments to the Mental Health Mill Tax Board; and approved copy machine service agreements.

They quibbled over doling out commissioner duties for 2009. Jones gave a written recommendation that he assume oversight for emergency management, Missouri Association of Counties, the Missouri Judicial Finance Commission and the Workforce Investment Board; Koeper take on the county highway administration, buildings and grounds, the county extension council and the MoDOT District 10 Advisory commission; and 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell be assigned county parks, the juvenile department, and MAGNET; and that the leaders of the county information technology department, the circuit court system, the sheriff's department and jail report to the entire commission. Second District Commissioner Jay Purcell opposed having department heads reporting to three commissioners rather than one, which he said did not provide clear leadership. He did not persuade the other commissioners. Jones opposed Koeper's suggestion to have building and grounds report to Purcell. Koeper made a motion to accept Jones suggestion for joint commission leadership of technology, courts, sheriff and jail but to assign buildings and grounds to Purcell, which passed after Purcell seconded the motion and Jones voted against it.

For more on this story, revisit or read Tuesday's print edition of the Southeast Missourian.

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