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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • City, TDD board to meet, seek equal ground

  • Officials with the City of Neosho and the Neosho Transportation Development District are scheduled to meet publicly next week to find some area of mutual agreement and keep about $6.9 million in planned traffic improvements on track.
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  • Officials with the City of Neosho and the Neosho Transportation Development District are scheduled to meet publicly next week to find some area of mutual agreement and keep about $6.9 million in planned traffic improvements on track.
    The one-hour work session will be held at 6 p.m. at the Neosho City Hall council chambers, 203 E. Main St. That evening's regularly scheduled city council meeting starts at 7 p.m.
    Prior to that, a teleconference between the respective parties' attorneys, along with TDD board chairman Dr. Jim Cummins and Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson, is supposed to happen sometime Monday. The TDD has also set a board meeting for Tuesday afternoon, according to Cummins, though it had not been posted as of Thursday evening.
    An Oct. 29 court hearing is expected to decide on the city's allegation that the TDD was unlawfully formed, something both parties have now acknowledged, though they have disagreed about why. That hearing in front of 40th Associate Circuit Court Judge Kevin Selby should determine the future of the TDD and whether it will be dissolved or not.
    Cummins said Thursday that the outcome of the Monday teleconference and the Tuesday afternoon TDD board meeting would likely dictate what happens at the Tuesday evening sit-down and may even render it moot.
    "The 10 of us on both boards might be able to come to a resolution, but we need the attorneys to say this is what can and can't be done," Cummins said. "All we're hoping to do on Monday with the conference call is compare notes with the attorneys sitting there. Richard and I both have a pretty good idea of what the issues are that our board and the council are looking at, and so if we can come up with a resolution that would satisfy both of the parties, then probably the meeting on Tuesday becomes a bit of a moot issue. Richard goes to the council, I go to the TDD meeting, and we see if there is something we can agree upon."
    But Davidson said that no matter the results of the teleconference between the attorneys, Cummins and himself, it was still important for a quorum of the TDD board to attend Tuesday night's work session.
    "The decisions that need to be made before the 29th of October, if they're going to be made, have to be made by the entire board," Davidson said. "Mr. Cummins just showing up to the meeting by himself would not be any different than he and I talking one on one. That is not going to get this problem fixed."
    Davidson said the city would know by early Monday evening if the TDD board planned on attending Tuesday night's work session, as the TDD would be required by Missouri Sunshine Law to post the meeting because a quorum of the board would presumably be present.
    Page 2 of 3 - "We need a quorum of the TDD board there if we are going to have some true conversations," Davidson said. "One person talking without the direction of the board does us no good at this point in time."
    The TDD has collected a half-cent sales tax within its borders since Jan. 1, 2012 to ultimately pay for about $4.5 million in road improvements along the U.S. Highway 60 corridor, with another $2.4 million supposed to come from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
    The TDD was formed under subsection 2 of RSMo 238.207. However, the legal problem is that subsection 2 does not identify property owners, who have acted as the voters in the Neosho TDD, as qualified voters. In another section of the same chapter, RSMo 238.202, subsections 1 and 5 do recognize property owners as qualified voters.
    Reforming the TDD under subsection 5 has been talked about by TDD officials, which would require the city and Newton County working together as the two local transportation authorities to establish a joint city/county TDD, presumably still controlled by a board elected by the TDD landowners. That would place the TDD under the correct statute, which means the TDD's past elections would still be valid. TDD officials have said that the proposal was made to the city and turned down, while city officials say no such offer was ever made.
    Newton County Presiding Commissioner Marilyn Ruestman said Thursday evening that the county commission has never been approached about it by anyone from either the TDD or the city.
    "The first we heard about it is when we read it in the paper," Ruestman said. "No one from either side has been in to talk to us about it. There has been no discussion."
    She also said that the county probably wouldn't support a joint city-county TDD at least until the present legal issues are settled.
    "I don't think that is something we would even consider until these court hearings are over," Ruestman said. "I don't think it's something that can even be on the table at this point."
    The city, meanwhile, has proposed establishment of a city-controlled Community Improvement District to replace the TDD, and its half-cent sales tax, and cover most of the planned projects, as well as add some new traffic-safety projects. The TDD's legal counsel has purportedly communicated that the TDD could not consider any CID that did not include all of the projects approved by the TDD voters.
    However, Cummins said last week and again on Thursday that he has been in private discussion with Davidson, and he seemed hopeful that something could still be worked out to include all of the voter-approved TDD projects and all of the traffic safety-related projects that the city wants to see done.
    "The mayor and I have been working hard to try and get something worked out," Cummins said Thursday. "...With this Monday conference call, hopefully we can share concerns from both sides and see if we can come to a common thing we can agree on and go to the judge with. We're continuing to try and find some common ground. I think the mayor and I are on the same page. We've got the same ideas in mind, but getting to them is where we need the attorneys to tell us this what we can and can't do."
    Page 3 of 3 - Davidson said the TDD, "if done correctly, is a good thing for Neosho" but that the council has significant legal concerns, and noted that the court had ordered the two parties to work together to resolve the issues.
    "We've set this [Tuesday evening] meeting to give the TDD board an opportunity to come down and meet with us and let us both share the concerns," Davidson said. "If this thing is going to get resolved between the two parties, the two parties need to be talking, not just one person from both parties. Mr. Cummins and myself are doing a very good job of communicating, but we're not the decision makers. It takes a vote of the entire board and council before anything can be agreed to. Those decisions need to made, and those meetings need to happen, before Oct. 29 if there is truly a genuine desire to get this issue fixed."

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