Cape Girardeau County pursues use of old federal building

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
The old federal building at 339 Broadway

Cape Girardeau County commissioners signed a formal application Monday for the old federal building at 339 Broadway in Cape Girardeau.

"The existing facility [the Court of Common Pleas] has long outlived its usefulness, but the construction of a new building is beyond our means," the commissioners' cover letter said, adding the move "seems to us to pass the basic test of common sense."

David P. Grimes, director of research and special projects for the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, prepared the application and presented the package, including the cover letter, to commissioners during the board's regular meeting.

The application asks the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to sponsor the county in its bid for the nearly 48,000-square-foot building. First District Commissioner Paul Koeper and 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell told Grimes the one-year move-in date seemed too ambitious.

"We want to make it clear, we're not prepared to move in next week," Grimes said. "The question on something like this is, can we get [the General Services Administration] to sign off on the deal? Once that part is done, in my view the rest of it is details. Now, the details can be a pain, but that's all they are. We can always work through that."

Almost immediately after the unanimous vote to ask for the building, the commissioners heard from Septagon Construction Co. representatives James Stark, Art Hughes and Nick Smith, who said their company could produce a feasibility study, prepare bids and oversee any renovations to the old federal building.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said he arranged Septagon's visit but forgot to put it on the agenda, for which he repeatedly apologized. However, since they had driven from as far as Sedalia, Mo., Jones asked them to proceed. Jones said he and Hughes, former presiding commissioner of Crawford County, discussed the federal building last fall during the Missouri Association of Counties conference and again during February's County Commissioners Association of Missouri meeting in Jefferson City.

Jones accompanied the men on a hastily arranged noon federal building tour after the meeting.

The old courthouse, built in 1968, was declared federal surplus property in December. The Rev. Larry Rice, founder of the New Life Evangelistic Center, applied to use it as a homeless shelter. Jones said Cape Girardeau Public Schools planned to apply for all or part of the building. School superintendent Dr. Jim Welker said in a phone interview no application or commitment had been made.

Smith said after meeting with Jones the county will receive Septagon's preliminary report within the next four weeks.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent addresses:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

810 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

1 W. St. Joseph St., Perryville, MO

937 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

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