The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 27, 2013

Neosho council delays decision on TDD appeal

By Roger McKinney

NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho City Council was to have decided in open session Wednesday if it would appeal the November circuit court ruling that allowed the Neosho Transportation Development District to continue.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, the council met behind closed doors with City Attorney Steven Hays about a letter Hays received at his office about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“I don’t believe we can take any action,” Mayor Richard Davidson said after the meeting resumed in public. The discussion and decision were postponed until Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

After the council adjourned, Councilman Charles Collinsworth called the letter “earth-shattering.”

“It’s a game-changer,” Davidson said.

Davidson told reporters that the letter was from a third party, neither from the TDD board nor the city. He wouldn’t identify who sent the letter or the issues raised.

“I’m sorry to be so vague,” Davidson said. “It’s a new issue that is being raised.”

The closed session wasn’t on the agenda for the special meeting, as required by the Missouri Sunshine Law. Davidson said because the letter was received so late on Tuesday, it was impossible to include it within the 24-hour time frame required for posting notice of a meeting.

TDD board member Steve Roark and chairman Ray Stipp both said they weren’t aware of any letter.

“It seems to me to be about building more drama,” Roark said.

Roark and Stipp said the TDD board has retained the Kansas City law firm Gilmore and Bell to explore the possibility of taking legal action against Hays and the law firm the city hired to help with its challenge of the TDD.

Davidson said that was not the issue addressed in the letter. He said he didn’t know why the TDD board officials weren’t aware of the letter, or when they would receive it.

The city had challenged the formation of the TDD, but the argument was rejected by Associate Circuit Judge Kevin Selby, who said the city waited too long.

The TDD has planned nearly $7 million in transportation projects along a retail area of U.S. Highway 60. The TDD would pay $4.5 million of the cost of the projects through a half-cent sales tax collected in the district beginning in January 2012. The Missouri Department of Transportation has pledged $2.4 million toward the projects.

Only one of the projects has begun: a traffic signal and improvements at Highway 60 and Kodiak Road. MoDOT has postponed starting any other projects until legal issues are finished.

Public session

THE NEOSHO TDD BOARD has scheduled a public meeting for 6:30 p.m. today at Neosho Middle School to explain the projects using aerial-view maps.