The City of Neosho is apparently back up to 249 acres in the Transportation Development District, which is also how many votes it will control in Monday's TDD board of directors election.

The City of Neosho is apparently back up to 249 acres in the Transportation Development District, which is also how many votes it will control in Monday's TDD board of directors election.

The Neosho R-5 School District remains at 24 acres, though the school board has decided not to vote in this election anyway.

A title search on all properties in the TDD, and performed on behalf of the district by Newton County Abstract & Title Co., had listed the city as owning 219 acres, instead of the 249 previously thought, due to the sale of strips of property around the public golf course. However, that land list did not include city roads inside the TDD. That adds a little more than 30 acres to the city's total, according to the latest property certification letter from Newton County Abstract received on Friday. Most of the city's land in the TDD, 216 acres, is the golf course. Another .58 acres is a lot beside the golf course. Hawthorne roadside park, along Business Highway 71 and adjoining the golf course, makes up another 2.3 acres. Finally, with all of the present city roads included, the city's total acreage is more than 249 acres.

One acre equals one vote in the TDD, as per state law. Not including roads owned by the state of Missouri or Newton County, there are approximately 552 acres, i.e. potential votes, in the TDD at last tally.

“I had told the city that we need to make sure our roads are calculated,” city attorney Steve Hays said by phone Friday. “Everybody keeps talking golf course, golf course, golf course, but that's not the only property the city has.”

The city was given until July 12 to formally confirm its acreage, according to a certified letter from the TDD that city officials say was received on July 9. But Hays said that deadline was arbitrary, as there is nothing in the TDD bylaws requiring it, and that the city had only found out Friday morning, after the Thursday deadline, that the roads were to be counted.

He said he didn’t expect that to be a problem at Monday’s TDD board election. Instead, he said it was fortunate the city’s actual acreage was determined in time for the election.

“I think that we can all agree now that [249 acres] is the proper number,” Hays said. “I’m hoping that from here on out there won’t be any questions, unless there is a sale or purchase of additional lands in the TDD, and we won’t have to go down this road again.”

Holly Mitchell, the project contact listed for Newton County Abstract, could not be reached at her office Friday.

Chris Williams, legal counsel for the Neosho TDD, said by phone that he has never personally been in contact with anyone from Newton County Abstract, but stated that he did know the title company was still calculating roads when the city's acreage was first identified by them and the 219-acre number was made known to the city last Monday.

“We told the city that there were still undetermined amounts for roads, because Newton County Abstract was still trying to calculate all that and had left that part blank,” Williams said.

A spreadsheet listing land ownership in the TDD, and provided to the city on Tuesday, noted in part that it was believed the city owned more real property than was listed. It also noted that Newton County and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission own real property too. Williams verified that is because of roads as well.

“[Roads] are obviously property within the district, so I don't know why they weren't included last year,” Williams said, referring to past TDD elections.

Within the TDD, the county owns Kodiak Road, while the state controls U.S. Highway 60 and its right of ways. Williams said that ought to mean that both Newton County and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, chaired by Neosho banker and businessman Rudy Farber, could have a vote in Monday’s election. If so, that would be the first time either entity has participated in a TDD election since before the district was formed in February 2011. 

“My understanding is they can [vote] if they want to,” Williams said.

The Neosho R-5 School District's acreage count in the TDD was decreased from 29 acres to 24 acres after the recent title search. That hasn't changed. The TDD boundaries cut off a top section of the Neosho Middle School property, it was found.

Williams said the decision to hire Newton County Abstract to determine who the property owners are in the TDD and how many acres they own was made because of the “errors and inconsistencies” found in the original property owner list and map. Those issues, such as registered voters found to be living in the TDD, threw the district into limbo for a time and put off the April board election until the city successfully petitioned the court to resolve the voter issue and force an election.

“I said let's just have the title company figure all of this out,” Williams said. “They can tell us what the numbers are. They're an independent third party. If people have any concerns they can talk to the title company. We're still relying on them. Every parcel of land in the district has got to be owned by somebody. We need to identify it and how many acres there are. That's what we're trying to do. To me, that's the only way to do this and get it right.”

The TDD property owners, who are the eligible voters of the district , will meet at 10 a.m. Monday at the Hale McGinty Business Development Center in Neosho to elect a director to a one-year term that expires in April 2013. The seat is currently held by Dr. Jim Cummins, who represents another landowner in the district. He will seek to retain his seat. The city council has voted to nominate and support Steve Roark, who will represent the city on the board. Other candidates may be nominated as well.