The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 10, 2012

Agreement paves way for Neosho TDD election

NEOSHO, Mo. — A Newton County judge has approved an agreement calling for the Neosho Transportation Development District to conduct its board election on July 16.

Neosho City Attorney Steve Hays said over the weekend that in a pretrial hearing Friday in Newton County Circuit Court, Associate Judge Kevin Selby signed off on a resolution reached between Hays and TDD attorneys Chris Williams and Mark Fels. Under the terms of the agreement, the TDD board will notify landowners in the district of the election by June 16, then hold the vote a month later.

The city took the TDD to court last month in an attempt to force it to conduct its annual election. The last election was held April 5, 2011. One seat, currently occupied by Jim Cummins, will be open.

Voting in the TDD is limited to property owners, with each receiving one vote for each acre of land owned within the district. The city, with 249 of the TDD’s 527 acres, is the largest landowner in the district, but it did not participate in the initial board election in April 2011. The city also abstained from subsequent votes, including a decision last year to impose a half-cent sales tax within the district. The tax is intended to fund road projects.

In a telephone interview Sunday, Mayor Richard Davidson said city representation on the TDD board will guarantee Neosho’s taxpayers a voice in the district.

During the May 2 TDD board meeting, Williams, of the Kansas City firm Williams and Campo, said that while state law and the TDD’s own bylaws call for an annual election, they do not specify when it is to be held.

But Hays said he found a state law that specifies that elections of “political subdivisions and special district officers” shall coincide with April municipal elections. The law defines a special district as any district with taxing authority.

In addition to setting the July election, the agreement also stipulates that all future TDD elections should take place the first week of April and coincide with municipal elections.

TDD Chairman Gene Schwartz said in an interview that he believes the court’s ruling is fair. He said the district is ready to move forward with its first project, the installation of a traffic light at U.S. Highway 60 and Kodiak Road.

That work, originally scheduled to be completed by the start of school in August, has been delayed by questions raised about elections within the TDD.

In a June 1 letter to Schwartz, Kevin Keith, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the Kodiak Road light could still be completed by the end of this year if the TDD resolves all issues by July 6. Hays said further agreements should have all issues concerning TDD elections resolved by the end of June.

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