SB40 board wants to meet with Cape Girardeau County Commission over disputed property deeds

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The dispute over who owns two properties housing VIP Industries operations is now a question between the Cape Girardeau County Commission and the Cape County Board for Developmentally Disabled.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's meeting of the board for developmentally disabled, attorney James Marks reported that the deed for two pieces of property, one in Fruitland and the other on Southern Expressway in Cape Girardeau, had been sent to Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones by VIP attorney Al Spradling III.

The deeds name the county, not the board, as the owner, Marks said. At his urging, the board voted unanimously to ask for a meeting with the county commission before the deeds are recorded and the transaction is complete.

"It is my opinion that you own those buildings," Marks told the board. "You need to act like that."

Jones has previously said the county itself should own the property, not the board. All property purchased with tax funds collected on behalf of boards appointed by the county commission belong to the county, he has said.

But the law establishing the board, which is commonly called the SB40 board, allows it to buy, own and sell property. Marks said that the board is different from other county boards because it was created under state statute, not by the commission.

"You guys should own it," Marks said. "You paid for it."

If the property is in the hands of the county, he said, it could be disposed of without any input from the board.

Marks also reported that he had asked Spradling to wait before doing anything with the deed while title research and other reviews of the transactions were underway. Spradling said he didn't go along with that request because VIP Industries wants to take itself out of the property dispute.

"He told me he was going to meet with the county commission and talk to them about the title to the real estate," Spradling said. "I did it in order to get the things out of my hair, and [Jones] had previously said to me the property would be in the name of the county. To me it makes no difference, and frankly my clients just wanted to get out of it and get rid of it and get it off their backs."

The properties are in dispute because the acreage at 1330 Southern Expressway and 5616 U.S. 61 in Fruitland was purchased by VIP, with the loans repaid by tax funds generated through property tax collected for the developmental disability board. When the loans were repaid, deeds were sent to the county commission in 1989 but no action was ever taken.

When the board leadership changed after 35 years, the lapse was discovered.

The Southern Expressway property controlled by VIP Industries includes four separately recorded parcels totaling 20.02 acres. The deed sent to the county covers only 4.02 acres of that area, at the intersection of Southern Expressway and West End Boulevard, Spradling said. The remaining property was purchased with VIP funds or accepted as gifts and the county has no claim on it, he said.

The deed also covers the 6.82-acre property in Fruitland, he said.

In other action

The board moved ahead with its plans to revise its relationship with VIP Industries, approving a new contract template and funding guidelines. That contract template and funding guidelines will also serve as the basis for considering other requests for money to expand the services available for the developmentally disabled.

The board has, in the past, contracted only with VIP and has amassed a surplus of more than $2.7 million.

The board plans to hire an executive director and case managers to help families find and obtain services for the developmentally disabled. When questions came up about how fast the board should move, chairwoman Dory Johnson said the board should move quickly.

"Everybody in the long run will benefit from doing this," she said. "We have a surplus and the need is there."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

1330 Southern Expressway, Cape Girardeau, MO

5616 U.S. Highway 61, Jackson, MO

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