The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 26, 2012

Steve Roark elected to Neosho TDD; Ray Stipp named chairman

By Roger McKinney

NEOSHO, Mo. — Steve Roark on Friday won election to the Neosho Transportation Development District board in a unanimous vote.

Roark received 229.97 votes from property owners in the TDD, with the property owners receiving a vote for each acre of land owned.

A judge in August ordered the TDD to redo its July 16 election, ruling that there wasn’t adequate notice provided for the election. He also ruled that the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which governs the Missouri Department of Transportation, couldn’t participate in Friday’s election, as it had in July.

In the July election, incumbent board member Jim Cummins defeated Roark, who was backed by the Neosho City Council. The vote was 338.52 for Cummins to 280.81 for Roark.

The city, which is the largest property owner in the TDD, also didn’t vote or back a candidate on Friday. Mayor Richard Davidson said it wouldn’t be appropriate, given that the city has filed a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the TDD.

The TDD was formed in 2010 and in January began collecting a half-cent sales tax within its boundaries to pay for $4.5 million in transportation projects along U.S. Highway 60. The Missouri Department of Transportation has pledged $2.4 million toward those projects.

Roark said his goal is to find common ground between the TDD board and the City Council.

“I want to make sure to bring good communications between the TDD board and the city,” Roark said.

He said he is confident that a reasonable solution can be worked out between the two entities, though it may require some compromise.

“The whole purpose of this is for the benefit of Neosho,” Roark said.

He said he recognized Cummins for his role on the board to try to negotiate a reasonable solution.

Cummins, who has served as the board chairman since July, resigned from the board, saying his job as vice president of finance at Crowder College needed to be his top priority. He wrote in his resignation letter that his time on the board has been “both rewarding and exasperating,” and that he wished he was turning over a finished product.

“I remain hopeful that the issues that remain will be worked out to where the citizens of Neosho can benefit from these projects,” he wrote. “The safety improvements and infrastructure for economic development are projects that should transcend personal feelings and political victories.”

The board selected Ray Stipp, president of Community Bank and Trust, as its new chairman. He said the board is pleased with Roark’s election, calling him an astute businessman who will contribute a lot. He also recognized Cummins for his service.

Stipp said he also wants a resolution so the projects designed for safety and infrastructure projects for economic development can go forward.

“We’re continually trying to work through the issues and stay focused on the end goal here,” he said.

Docket removal

A court hearing had been scheduled for Monday on the city’s legal challenge after failed attempts by city officials and the TDD board to try to resolve their disagreements. The hearing has been removed from the court docket and there has been no new date set.