The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 8, 2012

Neosho council wants to meet with TDD board, mayor says

By Roger McKinney

NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho City Council and the Neosho Transportation Development District board may meet before an Oct. 29 court hearing to try to reach a resolution on issues dividing them.

Mayor Richard Davidson said he and TDD board Chairman Jim Cummins have been holding informal talks, but a more formal meeting of the two entities is needed to accomplish anything.

“We’re to a point now where both sides, if we’re going to reach a resolution, it’s going to require a majority of both boards,” Davidson said by phone on Monday.

Cummins on Monday said he supports the idea, but it may need to be scaled back, because he isn’t sure the members of the TDD board can be assembled before the Oct. 29 court hearing.

“I think at this point we’re trying to find a time to sit down and meet,” Cummins said by phone. “It’s probably going to be more the mayor and myself, and the lead attorneys. I’m in correspondence with the mayor about it.”

The city has filed a court petition contending that the TDD wasn’t properly created under state law. The city’s position is that because the district’s boundaries were established to not include any residential property, no resident owners were qualified to vote in the election that formed the district. The result could be the dissolution of the TDD.

Davidson has said the city doesn’t desire to dissolve the TDD, but it couldn’t ignore the flaw when it was found while other legal issues were being researched.

The TDD, which includes several retail stores, was formed in November 2010. It collects a half-cent sales tax within its boundaries to pay for transportation projects.

The city has proposed a city-controlled Community Improvement District to replace the TDD.

“We believe this is the only way to prevent a taxpayer lawsuit,” Davidson said.

Davidson said that after the city floated its idea for a meeting on Friday, the city attorney received communication from the TDD board attorney stating that there’s no use in meeting if anything is considered that doesn’t include all the projects approved by the TDD property owners.

Davidson said the city cannot ensure that a CID would include all the TDD projects, not because it doesn’t want to, but because the city has restrictions as to projects it could pursue with a CID.

“I saw Jim (Cummins) over the weekend at the (Neosho) Fall Festival, and we’re hopeful we can get the boards together,” Davidson said. “We’re trying to make a good-faith effort leading up to the 29th to try to reach some agreement.”

Cummins said he isn’t sure everyone understands the responsibility of the TDD board.

“The TDD board cannot make decisions about what projects are or aren’t in the agreement,” he said. “The projects are voted on by the landowners. The TDD board is an administrative body. The landowners have to say, ‘We’re willing to change the projects.’ If they want to redo the projects, that’s going back to the landowners for a vote.”

Cummins said he’s unsure if a resolution can be found, but a meeting, in whatever form, couldn’t hurt.

“Time is of the essence,” he said. “We pretty much understand what the key issues are. We can sit down and work through those and see what we can come up with. I think it will help our communication, regardless.”

Judge’s ruling

ASSOCIATE CIRCUIT JUDGE KEVIN SELBY previously ruled that the July 16 election for a TDD board member must be redone, without the participation of the board that governs the Missouri Department of Transportation.