The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

January 3, 2014

Legal fight over Neosho TDD tops $416,000

NEOSHO, Mo. — The city of Neosho and the Neosho Transportation Development District together have spent nearly a half-million dollars in taxpayer money fighting each other in court since 2012.

The city in 2012 unsuccessfully challenged the formation of the TDD in Newton County District Court, alleging that the district was formed under the wrong state statute. The city appealed, but was unsuccessful last month before the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The city’s legal cost from the beginning of March to the end of the year has been $75,314, based on documents obtained through a Missouri open-records law request. That is the period that includes the city’s appeal. A previous request, including 2012 through the end of February, included a total of $55,228. The city’s overall legal costs so far has been $130,542.

One final legal bill hasn’t yet been submitted by attorneys, said City Manager Troy Royer on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t anticipate it being a whole lot,” Royer said.

The largest single invoice was one of $39,825.66 from August.

TDD board Chairman Steve Roark didn’t require an open-records request, but the dollar amounts he provided weren’t precise. He said the TDD has spent $286,000 defending itself against the city’s legal challenges since 2012. He also said there are outstanding bills and said he expects the total to reach $300,000.

Using the $286,000 figure provided by Roark and the city total of $130,542, the combined cost has been $416,542.

The TDD began collecting a half-cent sales tax in January 2012 within the district, an area along U.S. Highway 60 that includes the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe’s. The tax is to finance the TDD’s $4.5 million share of the nearly $7 million worth of transportation projects. The Missouri Department of Transportation is to pay the other $2.4 million. Instead, the TDD’s sales tax money has so far gone mostly toward legal fees.

A project to install a traffic signal and make other improvements at Highway 60 and Kodiak Road was completed before MoDOT halted projects because of the legal challenges.

City officials have been striving to recover from a financial crisis caused by a $1 million budget shortfall in 2009 that caused city officials at the time to lay off 25 percent of the city’s work force.

Councilman Steve Hart has been the most critical of pursuing the appeal, repeating his opposition at several meetings. He has called the appeal a waste of money.

“We’re spending it like we got it and we don’t have it,” Hart said in September, after the city had received the $39,825.66 invoice.

Asked if he felt vindicated by the court ruling, Hart declined to comment.

Mayor Richard Davidson, who pushed to see the appeal through, said though the challenge has been expensive and unsuccessful, the ruling has value.

“The court ruling now gives the city a guard of protection if someone were to challenge the TDD in the future,” he wrote in an email response.

Roark said now that the court battles are over, he hopes differences can be put aside.

“We need to start talking with each other, do a better job communicating with each other,” Roark said. “I think it’s already begun.”

He said as large as the legal expenses are, the real loss is the lost retail development. He said he hopes it can be restored.

“We’re working with the City Council right now,” Roark said. “We’re hoping to get on the agenda for Tuesday night to reinstate the cooperative agreement” between the city and the TDD. The city council had revoked it during the legal battles.

Roark said construction on the TDD projects may begin in 2014, but it may be delayed until the 2015 construction season.

Davidson said in the email that time will tell if there’s to be greater cooperation between the entities.

“If that means understanding both sides have a job to do and finding a way to make both sides comfortable with the ultimate decision, I suspect we may find greater cooperation,” the mayor said. “But it will take effort on both sides.”

He said he already was hearing things that cause him to suspect a nasty city election is shaping up in April, though he wouldn’t be specific.

“I’m not convinced some have a true desire to cooperate at all,” he wrote.

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Enrollment open for Joplin summer school

    Enrollment is now open for the Joplin school district’s summer school session, which will run Wednesday, June 4, though Tuesday, July 1.

    April 19, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

  • Britain Easter Pilgri_Cast.jpg SLIDESHOW: Good Friday observances around the world Around the world, Christians are coming together in observance of Good Friday, which they believe was the day Jesus was crucified. Here are some photos from Good Friday commemorations around the world.

    April 18, 2014

  • Missouri House votes to expand sales tax exemptions

    Pizza parlors, doughnut shops and even convenience stores all could be in line for a tax break on the food that they make and sell as a result of a measure moving through the Missouri Legislature.

    April 18, 2014

  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos