By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Concern was rife for a while at the Ste. Genevieve County Courthouse last Thursday morning.
An email from the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission (SEMO RPC) indicated that the changes the Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen were preparing to vote on this week would change the boundaries of the county commission’s districts.
The email indicated that wards 2 and 3 would be in District 1 and wards 1 and four would be in district 1. This would have made First District Commissioner Karen Stuppy a resident of District 2, Randy Ruzicka’s district.
After much discussion with County Clerk Sue Wolk and an examination of the district boundaries as they cut through the city, Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson called the county’s attorney, Ivan Schraeder.
Schraeder said the SEMO RPC was wrong and assured the commissioners that they set their own boundaries, independent of however the city might redivide their wards.
While the county will have to balance the population figures of the two districts to within 10 percent of each other based on the 2020 census (the reason for the city redrawing its wards), it does not have to factor the ward boundaries into it.
A look at the district map would seem to bear Schraeder out. The boundary follows Fourth and Center streets and Highway 32, cutting through the middle of the city’s Ward 3. So, clearly it was drawn with no regards to city wards in the first place.
Had the RPC been correct, it would probably have meant Stuppy having to vacate the District 1 post and either a new commissioner being appointed or an expensive special election held. Then, had Stuppy wished to regain a seat, she would have had to run for the District 2 seat in 2024 against Ruzicka, or whoever would be appointed to take his place if he is elected presiding commissioner this fall.
The various scenarios, as well as voters switching polling places, city wards and county districts, had Wolk and other officials’ heads spinning for a while.
CROCKER GOES OVER BRIDGE ELIGIBILITY
Chris Crocker of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) visited with the commissioners Thursday, primarily to discuss bridges. There are four aging bridges – all within the Ste. Genevieve city limits – that the county and city would love to get replaced. Changes in the Off-system Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation (BRO) grant program have complicated things.
Crocker said that it appears only one is eligible now, the bridge on North Main by the old mill. Another one should become eligible, once it deteriorates sufficiently.
One of the bridges officials would like to see replaced, though, is not currently eligible for BRO money. That is the Fourth Street bridge by city hall. Crocker explained how, under current guidelines, the bridge does not qualify. Part of the issue is that Fourth Street is considered more of an “urban route” than a rural one.
The city is attempting to get a Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) grant to replace it.