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Cape Girardeau County officials ready to move from Common Pleas Courthouse

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

(Photo)
Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones, center, speaks at a meeting of county officials Monday about the possible purchase of the old federal building in Cape Girardeau. District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell, left, and District 1 Commissioner Paul Koeper listen.
(Fred Lynch)
Cape Girardeau County officials voiced concerns to county commissioners Monday over the possibility of remaining in the Common Pleas Courthouse and Courthouse Annex, while members of the public will have an opportunity to express their views Thursday.

During the regular county commission meeting, officials from the offices of the county clerk, assessor, collector and circuit court clerk emphasized their interest in moving their Cape Girardeau offices to the old federal building at 339 Broadway. Their biggest concerns with the current location were related to security, storage space and handicap accessibility.

"We've had threats there," county circuit clerk Charlie Hutson said. "We've had many, many irate people come in."

There is no security system in the Common Pleas Courthouse or in the Courthouse Annex.

County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said there is space in the federal building for the election equipment now stored in the Archive Center in Jackson, which is running out of room.

Hutson also pointed out that the federal building is handicap accessible, whereas the Common Pleas Courthouse is not. He said officials have had to carry people in wheelchairs up the stairs in the past.

But concerns over the federal building include renovation costs, increased overhead and a lack of parking space. Officials are also unsure of how they would create an additional courtroom in the federal building to be able to support simultaneous jury trials.

"This would not be a utopia situation, but it may be a whole lot better than what they have," Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said.

District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell sent an e-mail to Jones and District 1 Commissioner Paul Koeper requesting that a public hearing be held to discuss the possible purchase. This would include the specific amount the county plans to offer for the building. Purcell said the official sale price from the General Services Administration is not to be disclosed, but the county is permitted to include the public in its discussion regarding its offer.

The other commissioners were not initially planning to hold a hearing because of schedule restraints and the approaching GSA deadline, Jones said. He also said he did not want to give "a few people a venue to act up," but that those against the purchase could contact the commissioners to express their views. However, the commission announced Monday afternoon that they will hold a public comment period to discuss the purchase at 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

County officials will meet with commissioners at 1:30 p.m. Thursday for a tour of the federal building facilities to help determine if it meets the county's needs.

"The last thing we want to do is try to enter into final negotiations with the GSA and then find out that none of you like it," Jones said to officials Monday morning. "You know, so if you don't like it, it's time to speak up."

The commission will vote whether to make an offer for the building during a closed session at 11 a.m. July 30. If the commission votes to make the offer, the county must send a 10 percent down payment to the GSA by July 31.

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I'd rather keep the County seat in Jackson actually. We move it to Cape, I foresee HUGE political fallout. Don't do it!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 2:30 PM

Mega,

Nobody is suggesting that the county seat be moved to Cape. The only offices that would be moved to the old federal building, should the county acquire it, are the ones currently residing a block and a half away in the Common Pleas Courthouse and the County Annex building. The collector, assessor, and county clerk all have satellite offices in the Cape location. No offices are planned to move from Jackson to Cape.

-- Posted by bluenova on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 2:37 PM

Doesn't it make sense to offer the majority of services where the majority of the county people are located?

-- Posted by justathought on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 3:01 PM

Meg, rest assure the county seat isn't moving to Cape and in case you are wondering. Commissioner Purcell still hasn't paid his $9,000 in county taxes yet. I just love to throw that in. He took the stage again since today gave him another chance to grandstand.

-- Posted by WhiningVoice on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 3:14 PM

The County Seat was in Cape Girardeau before it moved to Jackson! The only reason it's in Jackson is that it's more centerly located for a horse and wagon ride from outlying communities.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 3:44 PM

Mega's just concerned that it'll bring more newbies.

-- Posted by Just__Me on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 5:22 PM

From what I was told, the common plea courthouse is owned by the city of cape, however the county is required to keep the maintenance up on it. The county is required to furnish court rooms to the state at the county's expense. I seems a 100 plus year old building would have lots of maintenance cost. Perhaps we should have and maintain our own building. To build a new one would be VERY expensive, in comparison to federal building purchase. If the federal building would not service the county well,then thats another story.

-- Posted by Kickstarter on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, at 11:35 AM

Who other than the county wants the bldg? I would buy it at a bargain price or I would buy it at auction. The county may be the only bidder. It appears the county is in the drivers seat. Gerald isnt stupid keep Purcell muzzled and GSA will be paying Cape County to move in.

-- Posted by TC1261 on Wed, Jul 22, 2009, at 7:55 AM


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