Three vie for Cape Girardeau County Commission seat

Sunday, June 24, 2012
Charlie Herbst places a campaign sign along E. Cape Rock Drive on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. Herbst is running against Moe Sandfort and Jay Purcell in the 2nd District county commission race. (Laura Simon)

Moe Sandfort's name will appear on a ballot for the first time this August, but don't mistake him for a rookie -- he's well-connected, well-heeled and in possession of 42 years of strong financial experience.

Charlie Herbst is also well-known, though he brings a different set of experiences to the table. He's a former cop with two terms on the Cape Girardeau City Council under his belt, who since has served on numerous municipal boards and now works in information technology.

And then there's Jay Purcell, the two-term incumbent who has had his hands in several proposals, from the Fruitland incorporation and peripheral zoning to a struggling county disabilities board and his call to build a consolidated courthouse in Jackson.

The county government is facing the courthouse issue over the next few years. The commission is seeking an architectural firm to present proposals that would show scenarios for how the county can address problems of aging structures and a lack of space at the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau and the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse and the administrative building in Jackson.

The county was considering buying a federal building in Cape Girardeau and using that as a stopgap measure, but that has yet to happen.

Jay Purcell receives a delivery inside his Cape County Park office Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Purcell is running against Moe Sandfort and Charlie Herbst in the 2nd District county commission race. (Laura Simon)

Purcell was the first to talk about building a consolidated courthouse in Jackson. But both of his challengers believe some county services should be made available in Cape Girardeau.

"I don't think we want to make them drive to Jackson to pay their taxes, etc.," Sandfort said. "The service side, especially, needs to be here."

With his background in banking, Sandfort said he believes he is the best candidate to make sure taxpayers don't overspend. In building banks, Sandfort said, he saw big-dollar projects.

"I have a good ability to say this is a value for what we're paying -- or this isn't a value of what we're paying," Sandfort said. "We need to take another look. Let somebody else come in and give us an option."

Economic development will be a priority for Sandfort. Finding a new technology park, and the jobs it would bring, should be a collaboration between the county, Cape Girardeau and Jackson mayors, Magnet and the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.

Moe Sandfort attends a Cape County Tea Party meeting Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at the Cape Girardeau Public Library. Sandfort is running against Charlie Herbst and Jay Purcell in the 2nd District county commission race. (Laura Simon)

"If we can present to those prospects [in a] professional, high-ethics, no-nonsense format, we can make them feel this is the right position for them to come into," Sandfort said. "I see that as one of the major issues."

Herbst sees growth as key.

"We need to continue to market Cape Girardeau County as the premier county as it is in our area," Herbst said. "It is imperative to continue to partner with the larger municipalities in the county to further the growth."

Fruitland issue

Purcell said he favored Fruitland's petition for incorporation and it wasn't because he thought it was a good idea. Or a bad one.

"I'm pretty much an open book," Purcell said. "It's pretty easy to figure out how I'm going to side on any issue because ... the basis I use for all the decision-making that I do is to empower citizens, to allow them the most latitude to making decisions that affect their lives."

That's why, unlike his colleagues Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy and Commissioner Paul Koeper, Purcell supported Fruitland's incorporation request.

"If a majority of those citizens want to self-govern, I'm for it," he said.

Sandfort has talked to commissioners off the record, he said, and he has come to believe Koeper and Tracy acted appropriately.

"Jay can't seem to get comfortable with that," Sandfort said. "He's probably got his reasons. But, to me, it seems Paul and Clint have a feeling at this stage that what was presented does not meet the legal requirements of what Fruitland has in place."

Herbst said he hasn't been in the trenches long enough to have a good feeling for the issue. But he said that based on what he's read in the papers, the process has been a little dysfunctional.

Another issue the 2nd District Cape Girardeau County commissioner, who represents the city of Cape Girardeau, will face is the ongoing drama that has taken place with the Cape County Board for Developmental Disabilities -- a volunteer board responsible for distributing county tax funding to provide services for people with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome -- and VIP Industries. According to ballot language that established the levy in 1975, the money is allocated specifically to establish and/or maintain a sheltered workshop and residential facility.

But two summers ago the two agencies got embroiled in a fight about a kitchen remodel that wasn't approved by the disabilities board. That eventually led to litigation, with VIP asking for its restored funding and the board's countersuing for $1.5 million for money that VIP was reimbursed.

That prompted five board members to resign, one under the cloud of a conflict of interest because he worked at a disabilities board in Perryville, Mo. Purcell disagrees with one board member, chairman Larry Tidd, but he doesn't think Tidd should be off the board simply because they don't see eye to eye. Purcell does, however, think vice chairman Jeff Baer should not be reappointed because last year he faced similar conflict-of-interest scrutiny -- and talk of his removal -- after claims that he conducted board business with clients of his Jackson-based accounting firm.

Purcell was critical of both VIP and disabilities board members.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to things like that," Purcell said. "I look at it and if I think you're wrong, you're wrong."

Herbst said he would have to study the matter to see what authority the county has to intervene, though Purcell added that he was asked to facilitate by a vote of the board.

"I have a lot to learn," Herbst said. "I'll be the first one to admit that."

Sandfort said there simply needs to be a better way to go about it.

"I don't want to throw stones at Jay; that's not my role," Sandfort said. "But I think I can work through those kinds of issues without having to hear the distaste that seems to be out there. I know I felt that way when I read the [newspaper] articles."

So far Sandfort has been the only candidate to report campaign contributions, according to disclosure reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. In the April filing, Sandfort had raised $5,600, though he says now the total tops $13,000. Some of Sandfort's more prominent contributors include Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger, retired judge Stanley Grimm, Saint Francis Medical Center's Steve Bjelich and Russ Mothershead of Midwest Agri-Chemico.

Herbst and Purcell said they have barely started fundraising.

The GOP primary is Aug. 7.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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