Counseling center expansion bonds approved by Cape Girardeau County Commission

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau now has a stamp of approval from county commissioners to seek $1.45 million in tax-exempt bonds with the help of the Industrial Development Authority, moving the mental health not-for-profit organization one step closer to expansion.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday to support the expansion after hearing from Tim Schwent, director of the center, and attorney John Layton. The expansion, which will allow the center to add new administrative and clinical office space on Silver Springs Road, is being funded through IDA-issued bonds backed by Montgomery Bank.

Layton told commissioners that the tax-exempt status for the bonds could only be received with the commission's approval. The Cape Girardeau City Council in October granted its permission to the Industrial Development Authority to issue the bonds.

Schwent said the center serves more than 5,000 people each year in Cape Girardeau County alone. Some money for the center's operations comes from taxpayer-funded mental health boards in Cape Girardeau, Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties, but Layton said the county would see no financial liability or responsibility with the issuance of the bonds because the agreement is only between the bank and center.

Commissioners also approved a request from Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University, and Dick Withers, a member of the county parks board, to develop a plan to create an interpretive historical display based on the history of the Cape Girardeau County Home for the Friendless, the name given to the county's former "poor farm" that preceded Cape County Park North.

From 1867 to 1956, the county operated a farm that served as a home to nearly 2,000 poor or disabled people who were without family or anyone else to care for them. The farm was closed in February 1956, according to Southeast Missourian archives, because state welfare provisions began to allow for aid.

"It is important to develop this as a place of visitation and education," Nickell told commissioners.

He called the history of the farm a "very significant transitional story," which he said would help educate people about where the people of Cape Girardeau County came from and how their society has developed.

Withers said the park board had no reservations about an attempt to create a historical project, and commissioners voiced their approval by passing a resolution that gave their permission for Nickell to proceed with a plan for development.

Nickell said at one time all Missouri counties had similar types of farms or other establishments, but that none have effectively developed a historical story to share with the public.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.

Cape County Park North, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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