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Elected officials field questions at Cape Girardeau town hall meeting
From Birds Point to bike lanes, elected officials from several layers of government touched on dozens of topics Tuesday during a town-hall meeting hosted by the League of Women Voters of Southeast Missouri.
About 30 people showed up at the Cape Girardeau Public Library to ask questions of the mayors of Cape Girardeau and Jackson, the presiding county commissioner and three local members of the state Legislature.
Each official gave a brief overview of what was happening in their region before fielding questions. The topics were selected by the moderator -- league member Jan Miller -- which included submissions from those who attended the forum that was held at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.
Dozens of topics were broached during the discussion, from county planning and zoning and state tax incentives to the economy and the environment. The six panelists included Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger, Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr, Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy, Sen. Jason Crowell and Reps. Donna Lichtenegger and Wayne Wallingford.
The talks were led off by Tracy, who had to leave early. He described the county as in "pretty good fiscal shape" with $12 million in the bank. He noted some positives -- the groundbreaking of Melaina's Magical Playland at the county park and Nordenia's new 200,000-square-foot building on U.S. 61.
Tracy was asked a question about the county's interest in Cape Girardeau's former federal building on Broadway and the possibility of a new courthouse to combine all county offices.
Dealing with the General Services Administration, which is selling the former federal building, has been a "tedious process," Tracy said. "It's been difficult. It's been frustrating. If it works for the citizens, we'll be for it."
Still, Tracy talked as if it's not a certainty that the county will acquire the former federal building, which it would use as a stopgap until a new consolidated courthouse could be built in Jackson.
"It's hard to convince me that the hard-earned taxpayer's dollars should be used to pay for that building again," Tracy said. "The taxpayers have already paid for it once."
Rediger, during his talk, also mentioned the old federal building as a challenge Cape Girardeau is facing as a possible empty building in a high-profile spot.
"That looms out there as a problem," Rediger said. "Empty buildings do deteriorate. It continues to frustrate and it is a problem for our city."
Both mayors, Tracy and the lawmakers stood behind their decision earlier this year to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, an allergy medicine that is sometimes used to make methamphetamine.
The legislators also talked about the new Missouri Senate and House district maps, which have some incumbents and would-be challengers scrambling to figure out which district they will run in before next year's elections.
Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the committee that drew the new maps "shocked pretty much everyone" with the way the judges drew the districts out.
"It's got everyone re-examining their seats," said Crowell, who is being forced out by term limits. "I'm not saying it's good or bad. I'm just saying it's a radical departure from what was the status quo."
But they also all three took the judiciary to task for drawing the two maps in secret without holding public hearings. Crowell was also critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.
During Rediger's presentation, the Cape Girardeau mayor mentioned highlights -- the rehab of the historic Vasterling building, Isle of Capri's new casino and an urban deer committee that is studying ways to reduce the population.
He also discussed challenges, including the city's attempt to deal with Commander Premier Aircraft Corp., the failed airplane manufacturer that operated at a city-owned hangar while failing for years to make lease payments. Rediger said he was hopeful that a bankruptcy judge would grant the city's motion at a hearing Dec. 13. If the judge agrees, it would allow for the sale of the Commander's assets.
Rediger also said the city is going to make efforts to keep the city's new bike lanes free of debris.
711 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, MO