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County purchase of federal building could affect several Cape government buildings

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

(Photo)
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
The Cape Girardeau County Commission isn't the only government agency anxious to see what the future holds for the former federal building -- some city officials are keeping a close eye out, too.

A county purchase of the building on Broadway would free up the Common Pleas Courthouse after county offices are relocated from one building to the other. Cape Girardeau officials have held early talks about the future of the courthouse and nearby annex building.

"We're anxious to see what happens to the federal building," said Loretta Schneider, a Cape Girardeau City Council member and mayor pro tem. "We've thought that if the county gets it, the old courthouse would come back to our possession."

Several city officials cautioned that the talks are very preliminary, but some suggestions have been that the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau could relocate from the H&H Building on Broadway into the annex. Some city offices could move from the cramped city hall to the old courthouse.

"Relocating city hall there altogether -- I think that's been a thought," said Schneider, who is serving as mayor while Harry Rediger is out of town.

Currently, the city and county each have a one-half ownership in the Common Pleas Courthouse building at 44 N. Lorimier St. Both agencies share a 240-by-280-foot tract of land that surrounds the building, but the city owns the rest of the property, according to a copy of the agreement.

Per a 1979 agreement, the city granted the county the right to use all of the courthouse building and the annex for a 50-year period that doesn't expire until 2029. But the agreement can be terminated with a one-year notice if the city wants to use half the building, the agreement says.

The annex, according to the agreement, can only be used for circuit court and county administrative offices. Under the agreement, the county maintains the entire courthouse grounds.

City manager Scott Meyer said that there hasn't been much discussion about the future of the Common Pleas. But if the county does vacate the courthouse, Meyer said, the city would approach the county about altering the existing lease.

"We could look at what we could do with those buildings," Meyer said. "It would be a smart move for us to do that. At this point, though, it's a lot of conjecture. There's still a lot of dominoes that have to fall."

The main idea that has been circulating is the relocation of the CVB to the annex building, Meyer said. Using proceeds from the city's hotel tax, the city pays the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce to manage the CVB.

"We are indeed playing the what-if game," said CVB executive director Chuck Martin. "There are a whole lot of things that have to happen. This is all utter speculation at this time."

Still, Martin said, those at the CVB -- which has moved from 100 Broadway to the H&H Building at the corner of Broadway and Fountain Street in recent years -- would welcome the permanency of a building that solely served as a CVB.

It makes sense to be in their own building, Martin said. Also, the annex is near the scenic and historic Common Pleas Courthouse, he said.

"It's a recognized historic landmark," Martin said. "I certainly think it's a viable property and definitely worth exploring if and when the county gets the federal building. And it would be a crying shame if that building sat empty."

Jay Purcell, who represents the 2nd District on the Cape Girardeau County Commission, said he doesn't see why such a deal wouldn't work if the county gets the building it wants.

In fact, he said, he would welcome getting out from under the cost of maintaining the courthouse grounds.

"Generally, I don't give away negotiating points," Purcell said. "But anything that the county government can do to lower our overhead is smart. I'd think that a deal could be reached with the city relatively quickly."

While it's early, Schneider said it's prudent for the Cape Girardeau City Council to at least be discussing the ideas.

"We don't want to have to make any quick decisions," she said. "Who knows how quickly that old federal building will sell? We want to be ready."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

44 N. Lorimier St., Cape Girardeau, MO


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I hope the Federal Gov. gets off their hind ends and lets the County have the building. The only problem I can see with the county useage is the parking and that can be fixed with a parking garage if needed.

-- Posted by Retired93 on Tue, Nov 1, 2011, at 7:43 PM

A couple thoughts here - move all county offices back to where they belong - the county seat, namely Jackson, MO. Next, shut down the CVB. The CVB does not have the knowledge about the history of the area. They host their precious storyteller event in the spring but have absolutely no idea how to draw visitors to town the rest of the year. It is extremely aggravating going to the CVB to ask them about a landmark that they knew nothing about and they act like they're doing you a favor by logging on to the internet to print a page for you - something you probably already had done. Shut them down.

-- Posted by Beaker on Tue, Nov 1, 2011, at 8:11 PM

Beaker, the only way to move all courts and offices to Jackson is to construct new buildings. At a huge cost, I might add. If the county could purchase the federal building, there's lots of money to be saved. The CVB does bring visitors to our town in many ways. Maybe you should stop by their office and get an update, rather than making uninformed statements on this blog. You obviously have a computer, so why are you asking them to "print a page for you?" Sounds like you have an attitude as well. Wow.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 12:20 AM

level the old courthouse and build condos with shops. that would be an awesome view from high on that hill. no reason to pour money in an old building like that.

-- Posted by insider63785 on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 7:46 AM

Exactly my point JungleJim. I asked them a question about an attraction and all they could do is print a page - no knowledge of the attaction whatsoever. If you were literate enough to read and understand my post you would have realized that, instead of just responding "why are you asking the CVB to print a page." If you'd log into the CVB website, you'd see how inaccurate and outdated their information is. If you'd stop by their office, you'd confirm their total lack of understanding of the town and the region. It's just a job to them and it shows. They are doing the area no favors with the level of incompetence and now I understand they are funded through taxpayer dollars! (I had some level of tolerance when I just assumed they were volunteers) The county seat belongs in Jackson. The CVB belongs in the history books as a defunct operation.

-- Posted by Beaker on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 12:04 PM

There has been no mention of moving the county seat. I dont think that is even in the discussion. Or is it.....?

-- Posted by capecounty on Thu, Nov 3, 2011, at 6:47 AM


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