Letter to the Editor

Cape city facility $11M, while PB wants to spend $14M

Saturday, December 7, 2019

To the editor:

I appreciated John Stanard’s recent letter. He did leave out the zip line from the radio tower over the new police facility, across Shelby Road and the frog farm, landing at the new Cajun restaurant for a plate of fresh frog legs.

Now on to the matter at hand.

I would like to first say that I stand 100% in support of our police and firefighters. I want them to have nice facilities, good equipment and to be paid a decent wage for the work they do. I would not want their job at any rate of pay.

I would note that there are precious few public service departments that have the revenue available to have perfect facilities, the latest state of the art equipment and can pay the staff all that they deserve. That scenario is not unique to public service. Most private enterprises also have to struggle with the lack of funds to have all of the above. Whether the enterprise is public or private, there is always the need to “sell” the public on the necessity of additional revenues.

I was somewhat surprised and considered it a poorly conceived idea for the council to schedule the vote to make a land purchase that was clearly unpopular with the citizenry on the eve of a tax vote.

I am also surprised that no one, to my knowledge, has connected the dots between the internet tax failing and the vote to pursue the land purchase and to stay the course with highly compensated consultants from a faraway city.

I haven’t heard from the council any indication that connects the internet tax failing with the Shelby road project.

In the previous attempt, the tax failed by 12 votes. I voted for that tax in both prior efforts. I voted against the tax this time.

From the vote count, it would appear that some other folks in the city had similar feelings. Let me be very clear on that, I am in favor of the city collecting sales tax on internet orders. I do however, wish the council was more in tune to the feelings of the voters.

Like a parent who watches their child flitter away their allowance on poor choices and then the child comes to the parent with a legitimate need, the parent may not feel it necessary to fund the legitimate request due to the poor choices the child made on other items. I suspect this issue may have a negative impact on future taxation votes for some time, regardless of how good the cause or how great the need.

I would also like to address the location of the new police facility. I believe the town would be best served by locating the new police station in a government complex downtown.

I have great respect for Chief Whiteley and have visited with him about the location. The Shelby Road site was picked solely to be able to respond better to a school shooting. I acknowledge that he may be correct in this assessment. But even though the senior high school and kindergarten center would be in a more advantageous position, Lake Road and Eugene Field would end up being at a disadvantage. The junior high and middle schools are pretty much a wash in the Shelby Road relocation.

There are always winners and losers in these choices. I feel however, that the probability of a school shooting happening is so remote that, other than having a plan for it in your playbook, you otherwise operate your department based on what happens every day.

If we really want to do something to protect our kids, then let’s focus on what they are much much more at risk of having happen. In 2018, a bad year for school shooting, 32 students died in the type of incident we are worried about. That is 32 too many.

When I went to check data on the other types of mortality stats, it gets very confusing as there are different age groups and other criteria. For example, auto deaths are not rated in the same age brackets as school shootings but still a quick glance at the five school shooting deaths in 2017, or even the 32 in 2018, compared to the 2700ish auto deaths in each of those years or the 4,173 young people (in the same approximate age group) who died from opioid overdoses in 2017, or the 3,000 plus that attempt suicide EVERY DAY, these are the items that should be on our top priorities list.

Impaired and distracted driving, drugs and suicide are the issues that should capture our resources.

A police station on Shelby Road will not fix those problems. I do believe the city would benefit from a downtown location every day. Cape Girardeau has a new police facility in a new location near the geographic center of town and Jackson is currently building one on the site of the existing station. In my reading articles on these facilities in nearby cities, I could find nothing indicating the location being influenced by the response time to a school shooting.

Here is a link to a Washington Post article on school shootings and our unrealistic fear of them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/school-shootings-are-extraordinarily-rare... ( or just Google Washington Post, School shootings)

The discussed cost of some $14 million seems excessive to me. I’m not sure what the real cost should be, but the statement that they should spend $14 million because they can afford $14 million is not reasonable.

You should spend what you need, not spend what you can afford.

I could afford to drive a Mercedes. If I did that though, it would leave me little or no monies for housing, food, clothes or my many other needs. The same is true with the city. If they spend $14 million, but should have only spent 6, then that is $8 million that is not available for other expenditures the city needs.

Again, our nearby neighbors of Cape and Jackson have some comparisons to consider. Jackson’s new facility is costing $6.5 million and Cape’s new facility was $11 million. Note that the population of Cape is twice that of Poplar Bluff.

Lastly, I would love if we could run parallel universes. In the first universe the city precedes with the Shelby Road purchase. In the second universe the city makes the better decision to locate the police department downtown. We then see when the Shelby parcel of land sells and for how much. I know it is “appraised” for $4 million and the bank is graciously agreeing to sell it for only $1 million. My guess is that there is not a line of buyers standing around waiting to snatch this land up at either price. And IF there is/are buyer(s) waiting to pay $4 million, then we really are taking a great piece of property out of the tax base.

I would implore the council to stop the current course of action and consider the direction that the citizens of the city desire. There may well be some much better options available if given the time and effort to consider how the city might be better served.


Tim Funke