City council approves partial list of casino-revenue funded projects

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Debate about whether to approve projects financed with casino revenue now or wait for further public discussion ended in compromise at Tuesday's Cape Girardeau City Council meeting.

Ultimately, the council decided to approve some projects, and further talk about the remainder next month.

At issue was an ordinance that would appropriate capital improvement money for the first fiscal year of the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau operation, which ends June 30.

Councilman John Voss began the discussion by reminding the council not to lose track of its original plans.

The council proposed to split casino funds into several categories: economic development, safety/emergency, improved visibility and quality of life and history.

Mayor Harry Rediger and city manager Scott Meyer stated their support for promptly beginning more "visible" projects within the community.

"I think it's important to show the community the benefits of the casino as soon as possible," Meyer said.

However, other council members expressed an interest in delaying action until further discussion could take place.

Councilman Trent Summers said he felt "uncomfortable" making decisions on spending so quickly.

"We haven't yet set any official deadlines," Summers said. "So I think there's merit in taking a deeper look at some of these projects and the timeline."

Voss shared this sentiment, advocating more communication before any final decisions are made.

Ultimately, a compromise was reached.

The council approved a partial list of projects and will discuss the rest at its final February meeting.

The list of approved projects includes new playground equipment, equipping baseball fields in Arena Park with safety fencing, installing additional emergency sirens throughout the city, lighting improvements along Main Street and sidewalk improvements from Kingshighway to Janet Drive.

Meyer said the decision is a true compromise, allowing the council to delay action on more expensive projects while still beginning work on the more public plans.

"We identified projects that would be completed early in order to show the community what had been done," Meyer said. "In the next couple of meetings we will decide whether or not the other projects will be funded this fiscal year."

Meyer also said that taking another month to see trends in casino spending will give the council a slightly better indication of the accuracy of the city's revenue projections.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider ended the conversation by saying the discussion about casino funds "should have taken place long before it was put on the agenda."

The council also voted on a bill that appropriated additional funds for unexpected expenses in the city's budget.

The majority of these funds, $600,000 to $700,000, will pay for contracted work to install new accounting software in the city's computers. The rest, Meyer said, are for "acts of God" and other unforeseeable circumstances, such as a lightning strike to a generator.

Ray Buhs, who will temporarily replace Kathy Swan as the new Ward 6 councilman, was sworn in.

Action items

* Approved an ordinance approving the record plat of Russell Subdivision. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance approving the record plat of Walden Park Phase 3. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance authorizing the city manager to execute a federal aid supplemental agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the extension of the Riverwalk Trail. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance amending Schedule J of Section 26-135 of the city code, by repealing the establishment of a one-way street along a portion of Spanish Street. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance amending Schedule F of Section 26-247 of the City Code, by repealing no parking anytime along a portion of Spanish Street. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance appropriating funds for operating expenditures, capital expenditures and transfers for the fiscal year ending June 30. First reading.

* Approved an ordinance appropriating moneys for capital expenditures from the Casino Revenue Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30. First reading.

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