School district should help pay for road

Saturday, April 27, 2002

As it is now, Silver Springs Road stands in sharp contrast to the new Central High School in Cape Girardeau.

Where the school, still under construction, is sleek and modern, the road in front of it is bumpy and some say dangerous. Going south, a dip prevents drivers from seeing approaching cars on the narrow road.

The two-lane began as an asphalt road but has been reduced nearly to gravel in some places due to the punishment.

No one would argue that it needs to be replaced. In fact, the city of Cape Girardeau has an excellent plan for it.

It will be made of concrete, cost $1.02 million, feature four lanes plus a turn lane and be plenty sturdy enough to handle bus after bus, day after day.

Work should begin in May with partial completion in time for the first day of school, Sept. 3, and total completion in the fall.

The question is who should pay for that work.

This is another project funded in part through the Transportation Trust Fund, that half-cent sales tax city voters have intelligently approved twice. It would be tough to argue that most past projects haven't improved residents' lives considerably.

But that half-cent tax won't cover it all, and the city also has to assess $65 per frontage foot to property owners along Silver Springs Road. Those owners include, of course, the Cape Girardeau School District.

City manager Mike Miller has wondered aloud if the city can assess other landowners and not the school district. Schools superintendent Dan Steska argues that the district is part of the city's business and shouldn't have to pay anything.

The district would be asked for $24,000 per year for 10 years.

Who pays for the project shouldn't matter too much to taxpayers, who fund both the city and the school district.

And it would be nice if city officials were in the position to tell the school district: "Of course you don't have to pay for this work. It would be our pleasure to establish this new road without cost to you."

But that simply isn't the case. Dollars and cents matter greatly in every area of city business right now.

Furthermore, the city can't afford to set a precedent in the matter of who has to pay for road work and who doesn't.

The best solution is to set the same rules for every landowner who benefits from the Transportation Trust Fund, whether that be a government agency or a private citizen. That way, there will be no need for case-by-case considerations in the future.

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