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County places marijuana sales tax on April ballot

Photo by Jay Forness

Cape Girardeau County will ask residents to vote on an additional 3% sales tax on the sale of “adult use” marijuana during the upcoming April 4 municipal election.

The county opened a public hearing on the potential sales tax on Jan. 12 and closed the hearing during its Jan. 19 meeting, when commissioners approved the ordinance placing the issue on the ballot.

Local municipalities across the state are allowed to place the additional sales tax on the ballot due to the passage of Amendment 3, called the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, during the midterm election in November.

Amendment 3 legalized the purchase, possession, use and selling of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 in Missouri. The amendment to the state constitution established a 6% statewide tax on recreational marijuana sales and allows local municipalities to impose an additional 3% sales tax.

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said the additional funding could be used to combat any unforeseen consequences arising from marijuana use in the county – including additional funding for law enforcement programs, mental health programs and childhood prevention education.

“We will be flexible so we can deal with it,” Tracy said, adding that the funds would be unrestricted.

The local marijuana sales tax will have to pass with a majority vote in the April 4 municipal election to be imposed.

The tax would not apply to medical marijuana purchases, which will continue to have a 4% sale tax rate by the state.

In other action:

• The county commission approved a notice to proceed for Penzel Construction to start work on the construction of the Cape Girardeau County Jail addition during its Jan. 19 meeting. The county approved the notice after Penzel Construction signed the design/build contract.

The $48 million contract with Penzel Construction includes a 320-bed addition to the jail, as well as an extra 48-bed addition shelled out for future growth. The project also includes new roofs for the existing jail building and modifications to existing jail cell doors.

During the same meeting, the commission approved a stipend payment of $227,500 to Little Dixie Construction Company of Columbia. The stipend was given to Little Dixie as a finalist in the design/build process for the jail expansion project.

“Because of the amount of work that goes into the project, the team that wasn’t selected is eligible for a half percent of the total project – just for the work that they put into it with the architects and putting the plan together,” Tracy said.

• The county commission approved a general engineering contract with Koehler Engineering for the year. Commissioner Paul Koeper said this was a similar contract to previous years, but with updates rates.

The commission also approved a $79,930 contract with Koehler for engineering work at County Park North. The park project includes new sidewalks that will connect the county’s trails to the City of Cape Girardeau’s walking trail near the Walden Park subdivision, as well as new sidewalks alongside roadways in the park.

The 3,300 feet of new trails will be partially funded by a Missouri Department of Transportation’s Rural Statewide Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.

• The commission approved a new employee assistance program from Personal Assistance Services (PAS). The new program costs less than $3 per employee, per month.

Amie Merz, an account manager for PAS, spoke to the commission about the program – which includes confidential counseling, coaching and consultation services for employees and their dependents.

PAS has an affiliate network nationwide to connect members to counseling services. “We’ve expanded our services to include in person, over the phone and virtual,” Merz said. “We also have a new partnership with BetterHelp, which allows for the employee or the family member to find their own provider, if that’s what they prefer.”

Merz said members will be able to contact PAS directly to receive assistance. In addition to mental health services, the program includes 20 other life management services – including services on work issues, wellness, addiction, parenting, elder care, education, finances and legal consultations.

Merz said the contract also includes in-person or virtual trainings with county employees and management consultations for county departments.

The county has had a separate contract with PAS for employees in the sheriff’s office, which will currently will continue to be separated for now. Merz said PAS provides unique services for first responders, but the county could merge the two contracts in the future.

The new county contract will cover services for 120 county employees, not including sheriff’s office employees, for $281 per month. Merz said the contract is ongoing, with a three-year rate guarantee and can be cancelled with a 90-day notice.

“This is a good add for our employees,” Cape Girardeau County Human Resources Director Julie Triller said. “I’m looking forward to spreading the word and getting some utilization from it.”

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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