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Dutchtown scheduled for disincorporation March 5

The Cape Girardeau County Commission scheduled a vote for Monday, March 5, to disincorporate the Village of Dutchtown. The county held a public hearing on the topic on Feb. 1.

Ken Eftink, the floodplain and storm water manager for the county, was appointed as a trustee to look into the village’s finances and put together a report for the commission.

Settlers moved into the area of Dutchtown in the mid 1830s, but the village wasn’t incorporated by the county until Feb. 2, 1998. The village board consisted of five elected seats, none of which have been filled since 2015.

The last five board members all moved out of the district due to flooding and stopped functioning as a board after overseeing the FEMA buyout process. There are only 18 registered voters left in the village and none have run for the board in the past three years, leaving the village with no one in charge.

The village’s last property tax rate was set in 2014, and no taxes were collected since. In the report, Eftink stated that the Village of Dutchtown has an assessed value of $420,544 and a current balance of $100,150 over five bank accounts. These funds would be transferred to the county when it is disincorporated.

The village currently has a one-cent sales tax that generated $3291 in 2017. Eftink said the county will need to notify the Missouri Department of Revenue when Dutchtown is no longer an incorporated village so this tax is discontinued.

The flood buyout lots that were not being maintained over the past three years will be given to the Little River Drainage District. The organization has been approved by FEMA to take over the lots, and United Land Title has prepared a deed that can be given to Little River Drainage District once the village is disincorporated.

At the public hearing, Ken Steinhoff asked that the Dutchtown city limit sign be donated to the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society. The commission will talk with the Missouri Department of Transportation and see to whom the signs belong. If they belong to the village, Eftink will facilitate the donation.

Charles Sheppard, who owns land in Dutchtown, asked if there was anything residents need to do before the disincorporation. Eftink said no further action from the residents is needed, unless someone wants to stop the process and reform the village board.

“We’re deliberately moving through this process slowly, to make sure citizens have the opportunity to participate in the process,” Eftink said. “We are working on an ordinance that the county commission would approve.”

The public hearing will be open for the next month for additional input and for creditors to let the county know if there are any outstanding bills the village needs to pay.

Presiding Commissioner Clinton Tracy added that the commission plans on disincorporating the village unless citizens step forward to stop the process.

In other action:

• The 911 Advisory Board unanimously asking the commission to increase the surcharge on landline phones from 8 percent to 14.8 percent.

In 1991, voters approved a tax of up to 14.8 percent tax on landlines. The county set up a resolution that said the tax would be at the 14.8 percent for a period of two years and then reduced to 7.5 percent.

Commissioner Paul Koeper said the tax once generated $1.5 million and now generates $300,000. Dick Knaup, the director and coordinator for 911 services for the county, added the tax drops more than four percent every year.

Missouri is the only state where cell phones aren’t taxed to support 911. Knaup said the advisory board knows this isn’t a fair deal for landline users, but it is necessary to continue funding 911 operations. He added if a sales tax passes, this surcharge would go away.

“We know this is nothing but a Band-Aid, and we are going to move forward on passing a sales tax for 911 and starting that committee,” Knaup said. “The representatives from Cape and Jackson are hesitant about that, because they both have taxation they would like to bring up in the near future and they don’t want this to hurt their chances of getting their taxes passed.”

Both Koeper and Tracy said they are worried the increase might cause citizens to drop their landline phones, making the funding problem worse. Tracy said he would view this surcharge more favorably if there was more support from the advisory board to pass a small sales tax that would fix the problem going forward.

Knaup said the board as a whole is ready to form the committee and start the sales tax problem, even if they don’t have the full support from the two cities.

“It’s not their decision to make,” Tracy said. “The county voters get to vote. The residents of the cities vote, but it’s a county issue.”

If the commission approves the surcharge increase, it would not go into effect until January 2019.

• The board passes a resolution saying “the unlawful distribution of prescription controlled substances has created a public nuisance and a serious public heath and safety crisis for the citizens of Cape Girardeau County.”

The resolution states that the opioid crisis has resulted in the county using county funds to respond to the health crisis and that the county commission can sue to obtain any money due the county.

The county plans to take part in a class-action lawsuit with other counties against the manufacturers and distributors of controlled substances in their jurisdiction. The county will retain the firm of Carey Danis & Lowe in St. Louis, and no fee will be required by the county unless they win the lawsuit.

• The commission approved the use of the Jackson Courthouse Lawn for the “Jackson Reads” event. The community event is hosted by Jackson R-2 librarians and will take place from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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