The County Line: Commission provides oversight for county boards, operations

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Members of the Cape Girardeau County Commission, from left, 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones and 1st District Commissioner Paul Koeper, meet Monday at the County Office Building in Jackson. (Kristin Eberts)

As a Missouri county without a charter form of government, Cape Girardeau County's government is overseen by a commission. Consisting of three members, one commissioner from the city of Cape Girardeau, one commissioner from areas outside the city and one presiding commissioner from anywhere in the county, the commission meets twice a week to discuss county business.

As the county's governing body, the commission has numerous responsibilities, including approving and adopting the annual budget for all county operations, overseeing county roads and bridges, buildings, grounds and parks and appointing and interacting with county boards that deal with a host of issues affecting county residents. The commission also plays a critical role in encouraging economic development in the county.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said the commission develops tax incentives and other programs to encourage growth and development. Jones said since he took office in 1994, the county has helped create jobs that are still providing income for residents.

District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell, who is elected by residents of Cape Girardeau, said whether it was encouraging growth or adopting policy, decisions made by the commission affect county residents daily. He cited the commission's recent decision to oppose Cape Girardeau's request for peripheral zoning.

"If the county commission would have allowed for the zoning to take effect, I believe it would have led to county citizens having costly, burdensome rules and regulations placed upon them by elected leaders who do not represent them," he said. "Thankfully we unanimously voted the issue down, but I think this issue will be back soon."

Purcell said he believes planning and zoning issues will continue to come before the commission in 2011, with more peripheral zoning concerns and subdivision regulations. He said whether the county should purchase the old federal building in Cape Girardeau could also become an important issue.

Jones, who is retiring, said the recovering economy will also be one of the biggest issues facing the commission and incoming Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy.

Purcell said as a commissioner he will continue challenging politicians who campaign on smaller, more transparent government to keep their promises after the election. He said he will continue to work toward a smaller county budget through voting against elected official raises and unnecessary hires, even if it makes him an unpopular "square peg."

"I believe that the reason this country is in the shape it is in now is because regardless of party affiliation or platform, our politicians are all busy being round pegs promoting political needs over the citizens needs," he said.

The county commission was created under Chapter 49 of Missouri statute. The commission's 2010 budget from county revenue was $381,902.

Attempts to reach District 1 Commissioner Paul Koeper for comment were unsuccessful.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent Address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

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