Fruitland residents again seek incorporation as city

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fruitland residents Monday returned to the chambers of the Cape Girardeau County Commission, a new petition in hand. Questions have been answered, they said, and requests of commissioners filled. The residents have high hopes their appeal will be heard this time around -- although what they ask for is a bit different, and much opposition remains.

"This is our home, and we want to be able to make the decisions within the community just as you all make the decisions within the community that you live," Deborah Griffin, a Fruitland resident, told commissioners, as she presented a petition for Fruitland to incorporate as a fourth-class city.

In August 2011, residents of Fruitland, an unincorporated village, submitted a petition to the county asking to be incorporated. During the process, Fruitland had to be turned down for annexation by nearby cities -- Cape Girardeau was not interested, and Jackson was, but a public vote in Jackson in 2012 nixed annexation of parts of Fruitland. A legal battle ensued in 2012, in which it was decided in court Jackson could not annex a right-of-way area near the village.

Those seeking to incorporate Fruitland, before as a village and now as a city, say they have met all requirements for incorporation set out by the state constitution and laws, and have answered requests made by commissioners in February. Commissioners had outlined three "points of contention" with the group's original petition: the type of land included in the village boundaries, the village's financial plan and the services organizers intended to provide to residents.

Griffin and several other residents told commissioners Monday they feel they have sufficient utilities and can set up plans for more if a taxing system is established; that land included in the proposal contains an area with redrawn boundaries they view as being used as residential or commercial with room for future expansion; and that they need "fair time" to establish a budget once their city elects leaders -- but in the meantime, the community has a sufficient budget for general and unforeseen expenses.

County officials and staff still need to verify the petition signatures and areas included in the proposal before taking any further steps as a result of the petition, commissioners told the residents Monday. The process likely will take until at least Wednesday, according to Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy and Clerk Kara Clark Summers. The county also will have an attorney review the documents.

Residents who filed the petition want commissioners to approve placing an incorporation question before voters on the ballot in the April 2 municipal elections.

Opponents to the area's incorporation voiced varied issues with the new request Monday.

Some said they think the proposed area should be questioned -- portions of the community on the north and east sides associated historically with the Fruitland community should be included instead of land adjacent to the quarries. Others said the request for incorporation has to do only with protection some residents seek from industry -- two rock quarries, Heartland Excavating LLC and Strack Excavating LLC are in Fruitland.

"I don't think this is an attempt to found a community, I think this is an attempt to sabotage industry," said William Penrod Jr., who owns land with his father inside the proposed area. "Right now, in the economic times we are in, I don't think the needs of a few outweigh the needs of many."

Penrod's father, William Penrod Sr., who owns several hundred acres of farmland within the proposed area, said he will file notice with the circuit clerk that he does not want his land included, which could mean the group would have to resubmit proposed boundaries.

Carol Henry, representing Strack Excavating, said the company does not want to be included in the proposed incorporated area because it would create a hardship by subjecting the company to "direct attacks," which would not be experienced by a direct competitor.

The deadline for a question to be included on the ballot for the April election is Jan. 22.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.

Fruitland, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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