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Cape County approves new voting equipment

The Cape Girardeau County Commission approved the purchase of new voting equipment from Henry M. Atkins & Son Inc. during its regular meeting on May 30.

The Unisyn OpenElect voting and tabulation system, including accessible and paper ballot-based equipment, cost $314,943 with an annual software licensing fee of $10,500. County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said the upfront cost also includes a maintenance agreement for five years.

Henry M. Atkins & Son Inc. was one of four bids the county received, with other bids received from Elkins-Swyers Company, Election Systems & Software and Hart InterCivic. Each company was invited to present a public demonstration of their voting system on May 10.

“There was something we liked about every company,” Summers said. “If we could put them all together into one, it would be amazing, but overall we feel like the best solution is going with the Henry Atkins Unisyn Open-Elect Voting System.”

Summers thanked the public who attended the public demonstrations, as well as county staff members who reviewed all the proposals. She added that for election security, the system is made of 35 separate pieces of equipment that are sent out to each polling location instead of being one point of contact.

“It’s not just sending a piece of equipment out there and hoping it’s going to do it,” Summers said. “There are testing procedures, there are auditing procedures, and without all of that, I don’t feel it would be secure – but with all of those things we have in place, we feel like it is very secure.”

In other action:

• A public hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 13, about changing the speed limit on County Roads 330 and 335.

The commission received petitions from people owning property on the two county roads asking that the speed limit be lowered to 40 mph. Speed limits on county roads are 60 mph unless otherwise stated.

“There’s just a lot of traffic going through there,” Commissioner Paul Koeper said. He added that County Road 335 already has a hard surface and County Road 330 is scheduled to receive a hard surface in the next two years.

This will be the first ofthree public hearings required to be held before the speed limits can be lowered. Koeper said the commission will vote on the speed limit change after the three hearings. If passed, signs with the new speed limit would be required to be added at the beginning and end of the roads.

Koeper said the county would not receive any funds from additional speeding tickets, with that funding going to local school districts. “We would be doing this for the safety of people,” he said. “As we pave more roads, people do have a tendency to go faster and the roads just aren’t straight enough to do that.”

• The commission approved a price change for the renovation of the historic 1908 Cape Girardeau County Courthouse renovation, adding $118,065 for furniture including a dais for the county commission and cabinet furniture. The addition also includes handrails and baseboards, which will be installed by the county’s building and grounds department.

The addition will be paid to Penzel Construction, who is the contractor for the project and will use a subcontractor for the furniture. The county initially planned for Missouri Vocational Enterprise to do furniture work for the project, but the program within the Missouri Department of Corrections is currently behind schedule.

The commission also approved a request for bids to create a landscaping design for the historic courthouse. Those providing proposals will be responsible for the design and all the materials needed for the landscaping project, while the county would be responsible for the installation and retaining walls.

• The county approved a $262,040 purchase from Landscape Structures to replace the surface at Melaina’s Magical Playground. Parks Department Supervisor Bryan Sander said around $100,000 of the purchase will be covered by grant funding.

The current surface was installed in 2016 and was estimated to last 10 years. Sander said the playground has seen high demand and needs repairs early due to the large number of visitors that have used the playground.

As part of an ongoing project, the Melaina Cunningham and Friends Park Fund is purchasing $100,000 of new equipment for the playground, including a musical garden section and three new spinner toys including a merry-go-round.

The playground is scheduled to be closed from July 1 through the end of the year. A slide and cloud steps at the playground that are currently under warranty will also be replaced while the playground is closed.

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 five years. He can be reached at

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