Thursday, September 8, 2011

THE TROUBLE ON HUBBELL, Pt. 3: County agency's land holdings surprise neighbors

Disability resource agency buys houses and vacant lots all around the North Village -- but why?
 
COLUMBIA, 9/8/11  (Beat Byte) --  Neighbors around the headquarters of Boone County Family Resources (BCFR) in Columbia's North Village arts district say they are surprised to learn the extent of the agency's land holdings. 
 
Charged under Senate Bill 40 with helping persons who have developmental disabilities, BCFR has reportedly acquired not one, two, or even five -- but a dozen properties -- on St. Joseph, Hubbell, Ash, and Walnut streets.   What's more, the agency made a proposal to City Hall for retail floor place in the Short Street parking garage and 50 reserved parking spaces. 
 
It's presently eyeing yet another home at 104 Hubbell Dr. which is under the charge of Boone County public administrator Cathy Richards. 
 
"Someone needs to explain to our community why a local public governmental entity that provides much of  its services in the homes of their clients needs several acres of downtown real estate at the expense of existing neighborhoods," said Tracy Greever-Rice, Ph.D., a Mizzou economic and social data analyst and homeowner on Hubbell Dr. 
 
The agency's land holdings -- several purchased from Stephens College -- reportedly include: 
 
102 Hubbell Dr.
106 Hubbell Dr.
208 St. Joseph St.
302 St. Joseph St.
308 St. Joseph St.
400 St. Joseph St.
1205 E. Walnut
1209 E. Walnut (agency headquarters)
E. Ash, north (roughly) half of their primary office park
E. Ash, south (Walnut) half of their primary office park
E. Ash, northwest corner of the intersection of E. Ash and College Ave
 
On a sales commission, developer lobbyist and real estate agent Don Stamper helped the agency buy most of its St. Joseph Street holdings this summer, a potential conflict of interest that has also aroused neighborhood angst.  Stamper was appointed to the agency's Board of Directors in 2008.  It's unclear when or if he stepped down when his term was due to end in February.  County Commissioners only recently added a new member -- Missouri Employers Mutual employee Mitchell Ritter
 
As of today, however, Ritter is not listed on the agency's website as a board member.
 
"Don Stamper's got some 'splaining' to do as to why he was listed on the Boone County Family Resources website as a board member until a couple of days ago, and why he introduced himself as a BCFR board member and representative of BCFR real estate issues on 8/19/11 to the owners of 104 Hubbell and the public administrator," Greever-Rice said.  (See stories below).
 
Richards confirmed that "two different parties" had contacted her about buying 104 Hubbell, but she would not provide identities.
 
BCFR executive director Les Wagner says the land will be used to expand its services.  But how?  The agency contracts much of its work and in the past had too much space, former Board members say, renting it to non-profit groups.   What's more, BCFR's mission is immediate, demanding resources in the here and now for clients who mostly live with family. 
 
Keeping clients at home with families is reportedly BCFR's number one priority. 
 
"Most of the persons helped by the agency live with their families and in the community," their annual report explains.  "Over 93% of children served live with their parent(s).   The single greatest cause of unwanted out-of-home placement is a lack of appropriate family and community living supports."
 
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