Judge denies New Life's appeal for Cape Girardeau federal building as homeless shelter

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A court decision earlier this month has ended New Life Evangelistic Center's latest attempt to convert the former federal courthouse on Broadway into a homeless shelter.

District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled Dec. 1 to deny New Life's challenge of the Department of Health and Human Services' 2009 decision that did not give the building to the homeless assistance organization. In a 52-page decision, Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the action in its entirety, saying New Life's arguments were without merit.

Now that the decision has been made, the Cape Girardeau County Commission can explore acquiring the property to replace the Common Pleas Courthouse, which is more than 150 years old, and the courthouse annex on Lorimier Street.

Commissioner Paul Koeper said he doesn't expect the county to reach any decision on the property for at least a month. Koeper said with Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones recovering from surgery and retiring at the end of the year, the discussion shouldn't take place until incoming Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy takes office in January.

Commissioner Jay Purcell said in the past he has supported acquiring the old federal building as a stopgap measure so the county could address the shortcomings of the Cape Girardeau facilities. However, he has started to re-evaluate his support, saying the county should first identify whether spending tax money to support two county campuses that do essentially the same thing is in the best interest of the taxpayers.

Tracy did not return calls for comment on acquiring the property.

New Life applied for the federal building in May 2009. In the application, New Life founder and director the Rev. Larry Rice said he wanted to provide 1,100 nights of emergency shelter per year -- about three people per day -- and long-term transitional housing beds for up to six months for 125 people per year. The application also said he anticipated drawing from a 22-county area in Southeast Missouri.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said he is still searching for more information about the court's latest decision, but his initial reaction is that the ruling is good news for the city. He said a homeless shelter is not the best use for the old federal building.

He said he has calls into Koeper and other county officials to further discuss the county's interest in the facility.

Rice, New Life attorney Andrew C. Adair, representatives of the General Services Administration, which owns the building, and the Department of Health and Human Services did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent Address:

339 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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