The Cape Girardeau County Commission has released a letter to residents seeking to incorporate part of Fruitland that outlined three "points of contention" with their plan to become a village.
The county asked that petitioners revise the proposed village's financial plan, specify a timeline for establishing specific services for residents and redraw village boundaries.
"Our ultimate goal in this process is to see that should the residents of Fruitland deem incorporation is the best avenue, that it is done so in a manner according to the laws of Missouri. We also want to ensure that the residents of Fruitland receive the services they are due and the Village of Fruitland is positioned for success," the commission said in the two-page document dated Feb. 23, signed by Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy and Commissioner Paul Koeper.
Commissioner Jay Purcell said Monday he was working with Tracy to compromise on specific language in the letter, but his signature did not appear on the final version. Purcell said that he is opposed to the level of involvement by the county, which he said is "trying to overburden the process."
Purcell said Thursday he had no comment about the letter's content and that he hopes commissioners can reach compromises moving forward.
The petition projected about $10,000 in reserve funding for the village, which the county said was inadequate to address unforeseen expenses. Tim Sutterer, who presented the original petition to the county in August on behalf of the 238 taxable inhabitants who signed it, said proponents for incorporation would use budgets of comparable villages as a model for a revised financial plan to submit to the county.
Sutterer said only two services in Fruitland are supplied by the county -- sheriff protection and road maintenance. He said one option used by other small communities is to contract with the county for those services after incorporation.
Many local services would remain unchanged after incorporation. Water is provided by Public Water Supply District No. 1, volunteers at Fruitland Area Fire District respond to fire emergencies, Citizens Electric Corp. of St. Genevieve, Mo., provides electricity and landowners contract individually for trash pickup. There are not unified sewer services in the area. Some individual residents have septic systems while larger developments have localized systems.
Sutterer said all petitioners have been invited to two meetings about the terms of incorporation, including what services will be offered. He said he thinks residents generally understand and agree with the terms of the petition and existing services and that the village plans to respond with expanded services as desired and needed.
The village border, as currently drawn, would be bound by U.S. 61, Interstate 55, Highway 177 and routes Y, W and FF, which includes two quarries. Sutterer said that during the formation of the petition, residents initially drew a rough rectangle centering on the growing areas of Fruitland. Legal counsel to the group advised using existing natural boundaries instead of picking and choosing landowners, leading to extending the edges of that shape to the surrounding highways.
The county asked in its letter that the historical footprint of Fruitland to the north be included in the village. It questions the inclusion of agricultural land that potentially violates Missouri Supreme Court rulings against incorporating such tracts.
The county has also received written opposition by landowners included in the incorporation boundaries. Legal counsel for Heartland Materials LLC and Strack Excavating LLC, which operate the two quarries in the area, sent letters dated Feb. 27 and Feb 28, respectively, stating they will take legal action to prevent being included in the village.
Sutterer said the group would not feel comfortable redrawing the boundaries without input from the residents to the north who would be affected. He said village organizers would formally respond in detail to the county's letter "in a couple weeks."
"We are trying to do our best to do everything that is required by law, and then some," Sutterer said.
Missouri law specifies the minimum process an area must follow to become a village but allows for the county to determine what is "reasonable" in excess of the minimum before approving incorporation, according to an incorporation handbook published by the University of Missouri-Columbia.
In comparison to the demands on other similar communities, Sutterer said, "we feel we may be being held to a higher standard."
The county's legal counsel declined to comment Thursday, pending permission to make a public statement.
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