The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 16, 2012

TDD board absent from Neosho council work session; board chairman says attorneys need to talk first

NEOSHO, Mo. — Jim Cummins, board chairman of the Neosho Transportation Development District, said Monday that the TDD board would be represented at a Tuesday night work session with the Neosho City Council.

He said the meeting would be beneficial, regardless of the outcome.

When the meeting convened at the Civic Center, no members of the TDD board were present. Mayor Richard Davidson said he had been notified about 15 minutes before the meeting that none of the members of the TDD board would be there, on the advice of the board’s attorneys.

Cummins said by phone that a telephone conference call, originally scheduled for Monday, among himself, Davidson and the attorneys for both parties had to be rescheduled to today. He said the idea was to reschedule the work session to Thursday.

He also issued a written statement.

“We are still committed to finding a resolution and look forward to having a joint meeting after the attorneys gather,” it reads in part. It also states that there has been excellent progress in talks between the city and the TDD board.

“The TDD board expresses a sincere desire to come to a mutual agreement to resolve the issues so the projects can move forward for the benefit of the community,” the statement said.

The TDD began collecting a half-cent sales tax in January to pay for $4.5 million in projects along U.S. Highway 60 in Neosho. The Missouri Department of Transportation has pledged $2.4 million toward those projects. The area includes several retail businesses.

Council members responded with disappointment and anger to the TDD board’s absence.

“In their absence, you’re left wondering how committed they are to making this work,” said Councilman Steve Hart.

“This could have been the start of something good,” Hart said, noting his disappointment.

Councilman Charles Collinsworth said he was “livid” over the matter. Collinsworth said he wants the TDD to be legally and properly done. He said the TDD board represents property owners of the TDD, not taxpayers.

“I want to see taxation with representation,” he said. “I want to see accountability.”

Collinsworth said the TDD board is lacking credibility.

“The other issue is trust,” he said. “Forgive the people of Neosho if they’re cynical about this project.”

Councilman David Ruth said the delays are placing a project to install a traffic signal at U.S. Highway 60 and Kodiak Road in jeopardy.

“I’m sick and tired of that project being held over our heads as a political football,” he said. “If that stoplight doesn’t get put in, then shame on them. And shame on MoDOT.”

Davidson said a community improvement district, proposed by the city, remains the best and quickest solution. He said the most recent deadline for the $2.4 million cost share from MoDOT is Dec. 1.

“You cannot fix the TDD by Dec. 1,” Davidson said. “Absent the CID happening, you will not see that deadline met.”

Local businessman Steve Roark said he wants to be the mediator in the situation.

“This TDD is critical for Neosho,” Roark told the council members. He said he thinks the TDD board would be open to having city representation on the board. He said he also thinks the TDD board is open to including safety projects the city wants to include.

“Neosho will benefit greatly from this TDD,” he said.

After the meeting, Roark said he has friends in city government and on the TDD board.

“I think there really is a lot more agreement than disagreement,” Roark said. He said he thinks everyone needs a big hug.

“There are hurt feelings on both sides,” he said.

Told of the reaction of the City Council members, Cummins said he also was disappointed that the meeting didn’t take place.

“We’ve got to get it worked out,” he said.

Court hearing

THE CITY HAS FILED a legal petition challenging the formation in 2010 of the Neosho Transportation Development District. An Oct. 29 court hearing has been set to address the petition, unless the parties work out the issues in advance.

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