City of Cape, SEMO consider joint offer on old federal bulding

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri State University are talking about a partnership to take over the federal building on Broadway that was replaced during the summer by the Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. Federal Courthouse.

In a letter dated Jan. 12, assistant city manager Ken Eftink informed the U.S. General Services Administration that the city would like to be considered as the future owner of the building. In the letter, Eftink said the city's request is contingent upon whether Cape Girardeau County gets the facility. The city's request, Eftink wrote, should be considered only if the county passes on taking over the building.

The federal building was constructed in the 1960s and declared surplus property by the federal government in December. Under federal law, there are uses that qualify the building to be given to local governments or education institutions.

The city needed to make its interest known before a Wednesday deadline. "What we wanted to do was throw our hat into the ring," Eftink said. "It is an important property in the downtown area."

The city has also asked for the responsibility of keeping up the May Greene Garden parcel at the corner of Fountain and Themis Streets.

No firm plan for using the building has been developed, but its location two blocks from city hall make it attractive as office space, Eftink said. "All those details have to be worked out."

Cape Girardeau County commissioners have viewed the building as a potential replacement for the Common Pleas Courthouse, the historic building that sits on the imposing hill above Spanish Street. The county has filed its request to acquire the building, Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell said.

The building is set up for courts, is more secure than the Common Pleas Courthouse and complies with disability access standards, Purcell noted.

Unanswered questions about the building, Purcell said, are whether the county would have to buy the building, the costs for retrofitting the building and the restrictions on the building's use. "It is something we need to strongly pursue," Purcell said.

The county has not been approached about any potential cooperative use with the city, Purcell said, but that isn't out of the question.

Southeast Missouri State University joined with the city in a preliminary request for the building and no plans for its use have been drafted, said Ann Hayes, university spokeswoman. "We are right now just in very preliminary discussions with the city," she said.

Charlie Cook, a spokesman for GSA, could not be reached Friday.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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