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Cape County picks design/build ‘short list’ for courthouse renovation and jail expansion

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Three construction teams have formally thrown their hat in the ring to lead the design/build process to renovate the historic 1908 Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson and add an expansion to the Cape Girardeau County Jail.

Penzel Construction, Little Dixie Construction and River City Construction all submitted statements of qualifications to the County of Cape Girardeau, and all three companies were chosen to move forward in creating technical and price proposals for the two construction projects.

“Initially, we were going to pick two for the short list, but after going through their qualifications, we found that we had three quality teams and we felt like eliminating one would be shortchanging the county,” Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said during the commission’s June 9 meeting. “We are including all three teams so we can maximize the input and get the best bang for our buck.”

“They all had experience with jail additions, jail renovations and courthouse renovations, so it was hard to turn one down,” Commissioner Paul Koeper added.

The former county courthouse at 100 Court Street in Jackson has remained empty since the new county courthouse opened in May 2020, but it requires repairs to its electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems before county offices can utilize the space.

The expansion of the county jail, which last saw an addition in 2002, will add additional beds to the facility. The jail’s stated capacity is 218 people, but it currently houses around 260 people each day.

In other action

• The commission appointed a new board of trustees for the Village of Old Appleton, after the death of long time Old Appleton Mayor Kevin Amschler. Amschler died on April 22 at the age of 54.

“The Village of Old Appleton is supposed to have five trustees,” County Commissioner Charlie Herbst said. “The last two to four election cycles they have not had a full board, but still have operated.”

Kevin Amschler, who served as mayor for Old Appleton for more than 20 years, was the only remaining trustee for the village and was the only candidate on the ballot for the board during the April 5 general municipal election.

After Amschler’s death, his wife Theresa Amschler reached out to the county commission for guidance on how the village can move forward. Herbst said the state statues allow the county commission to appoint five trustees so the village can continue to function.

Two write-in candidates received votes for the board during the April election. Only one of those candidates, Paul Abrisz, accepted one of the open trustee positions.

Abrisz and Theresa Amschler were appointed to terms expiring April 2024. Gerald Schumer, Karri Rumfelt and Kohl Cavanah were appointed to terms expiring April 2023.

During the board’s reorganization, the new trustees will appoint a new mayor and clerk. Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy added that the new board would have the option to disincorporate the village if they desire.

• The commission approved a $11,975 quote from Arco Tower of Jonesboro, Arkansas, to remove old radio equipment from seven towers in the county that are no longer needed.

Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler said the county previously approved a quote for this work in January, but that company was unable to complete the work in the given time frame. He added that the work should be completed relatively soon.

“The columniation will be when you see the tower next door [at the old Cape Girardeau County Courthouse] on the ground and removed,” Winkler said. “You’ll know the project is over then.”

• The commission passed an ordinance granting Ameren the use of county roads to complete its Limestone Ridge Project, which will connect a new substation in Perry County to a new substation in Cape Girardeau County.

Ameren is responsible for repairing the county roads to their original condition after the work is completed.

• The commission approved the county’s office of emergency management to apply for a $10,800 grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security. The grant would cover an inventory and tagging system for emergency equipment, as well as a portable badge system to identify emergency personnel and volunteers at disaster scenes.

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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