Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BEAT BYTES: Preis, Schauwecker, Elkin, Crayton Controversies

Lackluster Renovation Hurting Historic Building, Parks Chief Tells City Council
Tax Assessor Flip Flops On Building Buy
County Commissioner Pans Property Tax Hike, Rejects Budget
Ward One Councilwoman Warns Against Classroom Cop

Lackluster Renovation Hurting Historic Building, Parks Chief Tells City Council

BEAT BYTE (1/08/08) -- In a report to the Columbia City Council last night, City of Columbia parks chief Mike Hood partly blamed lackluster building renovation efforts on the part of Central Missouri Community Action for a drainage problem that is slowly destroying the historic Heibel-March Store, now known as "the Corner."

CMCA director Darin Preis had hoped city officials would regrade adjacent Field Park to channel water away from the empty building, which CMCA has owned for nearly a decade. But Field Park isn't the problem, Hood reported to the city council last night.

Lacking rain gutters and a sound roof, rainwater runs down walls and penetrates the interior.

Water spilling from the roof will quickly erode any regrading efforts, so "unless the roof is completed and gutters installed, grading and altering the terrain will not stop water from entering the building," says a parks department report critical of the building's condition.

It's been an up and down year for CMCA and the Corner. In August, the Columbia Tribune reported that the non-profit's $500 city building permit had expired amidst an internal leadership struggle. Then, after slightly more than $100,000.00 in so-called "Neighborhood Assistance Program" tax credits expired, the organization received a second $65,000 round.

Hood's team visited the historic building at the corner of Rangeline and Wilkes on several occasions in 2007, once shortly after rainfall.

A late December visit yielded photographs that show a partly completed roof renovation already deteriorating, exposing new wood joists to water and weather.

"Felt paper from the roof was found littered around the park," park officials reported. "Walls were wet from water coming down from the roof."

Finishing renovations and landscaping against the building should solve the problem, Hood said. But for that, he looks to CMCA.

"The building is the responsibility of CMCA," he wrote. "Staff believes that any future floral landscape beds around the building should also be constructed and maintained by CMCA."


County Assessor Flip Flops On Building Buy

BEAT BYTE (1/08/08) -- In a seven figure flip-flop, the Columbia Tribune reports that Tom Shauwecker, who may be seeking his 20th year as the Boone County tax assessor, has changed his tune on the county's recent acquisition of the Johnston Paint Building.

After County Commissioners depleted reserve funds to pay $685,000 for the downtown property last August, Schauwecker -- who lists the property’s appraised value at $222,800 -- "called the purchase price fair because the value of a block of assembled property is worth more than its parts," the Tribune reported.

He also justified the building's inflated sales price, "$20,000 over an appraised value determined by a local bank on behalf of the seller."

Now, four months later, Schauwecker has had second thoughts radical enough to temporarily stall county budgeting. Last week, he told Boone County commissioners that the Johnston acquisition "depleted reserve funds and did not go through the budgetary process."

"The FY 2008 budget message is implicit, buildings are more important than people," Schauwecker said.



County Commissioner Pans Property Tax Hike, Rejects Budget

BEAT BYTE (1/08/08) -- "Boone County officials might have a logical budgetary reason for considering a property tax increase, but they hardly could have designed a more awkward way of proposing the idea to constituent taxpayers," Columbia Tribune editor Hank Waters wrote in an editorial last month. "Back in November, when they asked for and got an extension of transportation sales taxes, they said if the tax did not pass they would have to raise property taxes."

But the transportation tax passed and county commissioners Karen Miller and Ken Pearson are raising property taxes anyway. That's a broken promise and just one reason Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin yesterday cast the lone vote against the 2008 Boone County budget, which includes a property tax increase to fund elections.

Calling the tax hike an "11th hour" move, Elkin instead favors dipping into the reserve fund balance to cover those costs.



Ward One Councilwoman Warns Against Classroom Cop Cuts

BEAT BYTE (1/08/08) -- Echoing Fifth Ward city councilwoman Laura Nauer's earlier sentiments, First Ward council member Almeta Crayton last night warned city manager Bill Watkins and fellow council members against taking Columbia Police Department resource officers from middle school classrooms to fight escalating street crime.

She also cast the lone vote against adding $250,000 from cable franchise fees to the general budget.

In an emphatic plea during the council's public meeting, Crayton said the resource officer program reduces antagonism toward police officers and offers early intervention. Children who have a good relationship with a police officer are less likely to commit violent crimes later on, she emphasized.

She also said that non-profit organizations with anti-gang grants aren't doing enough to decrease gang activity. That money should instead go toward programs that work, including resource officers, she said.

"We have to start focusing more on prevention," Crayton said. "I've been preaching this since 1996."


From the Columbia Heart Beat
For Columbia's Blogs and Listservs: The News They Don't Report

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