(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
NEW MADRID - Voters agreed to change the funding of the county's ambulance district in Tuesday's general election. Also gaining passage, although one issue just barely, were two proposals from the R-1 School District.
According to unofficial results from the office of County Clerk Clement Cravens, the proposal to fund operation of the New Madrid County Ambulance District through a sales tax was overwhelmingly approved. More than 63 percent of the voters - 3,734 - cast yes votes compared to 2,156 no votes on the issue which will impose quarter cent sales tax and, in turn, require a 50 percent rollback of property taxes, which previously funded ambulance operations.
Ralph Barnwell, ambulance district director, was obviously pleased as he watched the votes tallied from around the county. "This will be a fairer tax for everyone in the county," noted Barnwell about the sales tax. "It will guarantee more operating capital for the ambulance district and ensure our solvency for several more years."
R-1 Superintendent called the passage of the two school proposals an "investment in the future of our children."
The proposal allowing the district to borrow $8,993,000 for the purpose of remodeling and renovating the district's buildings received 2,168 yes votes compared to 1,044 no votes.
Squeaking by with a much narrower margin was a second issue allowing the district to increase the operating tax levy ceiling by 10 cents each year for the next eight years for the purpose of maintaining the facilities and providing more funds for staff. This issue was passed with 1,844 yes votes - or 57.73 percent just above the required margin - compared to 1,350 no votes.
As the final tallies were announced, Nance noted the approval of the issues would enable the district to continue to provide "quality education opportunities for years to come. It will be a top priority of the Board and the administration to make certain we make good decisions in preparation and planning of the building improvements," he said adding, "once again the patrons of our school district have put the education of the children as their No. 1 priority."
The only other local issues on the ballot were in Marston, where citizens approved issuing waterworks and sewerage system bonds by a margin of 98 yes to 82 no. Passing by a wider margin was a proposition calling for taxing hotel rooms with the revenue to be used for tourism including infrastructure improvements; this was approved 131 to 53.
None of the office holders faced opposition and all were incumbents listed on the Democratic ticket.
Vote tallies were: 34th Judicial Circuit Judge Fred W. Copeland, 5,034; Associate Circuit Judge Charles Spitler, 5,141; Presiding Commissioner Clyde M. Hawes, 5,079; Circuit Court Clerk Marsha Meatte Holiman, 5,050; County Clerk Clement Cravens, 5,112; Recorder of Deeds Ann Evans Copeland, 5,054; Prosecuting Attorney Lewis H. Recker, 4,980; County Auditor Brian Mauk, 5,039; and Collector of Revenue Dewayne Nowlin, 5,252.
As far as the statewide issues, New Madrid County voters favored Democrat Claire McCaskill, who polled 3,235 votes compared to her opponents, Republican Jim Talent, 2,725; Libertarian, Frank Gilmour, 109; and Progressive Lydia Lewis, 27.
For state auditor, Democrat Susan Montee also garnered the most votes in the county, with 3,416 compared to 2,186 for Republican Sandra Thomas, 194 for Libertarian Charles W. Baum and 55 for Terry Bunker.
Incumbent Republican Eighth District Representative Jo Ann Emerson was the top vote-getter among New Madrid County residents. Emerson had 3,870 votes with Democrat Veronica J. Hambacker receiving 2,136; and Libertarian Branden C. McCullough, 85.
On Constitutional Amendment No. 2 (stem cell research), there were 3,403 no votes cast compared to 2,665 yes votes while the proposal to increase the tax on cigarettes, Amendment No. 3, was opposed locally with 3,599 votes against compared to 2,440 in favor. County residents favored providing an exception to nonprofit organizations on real and personal property voting 3,360 for the issue compared to 2,375 against while they also gave the nod overwhelmingly to Amendment 7 calling for elected officials to forfeit pensions if convicted of a felony with a vote of 4,877 yes to 951 no votes.
On a proposition to raise the minimum wage, county voters also approved the idea with 4,713 yes votes and 1,254 no votes.
A total of 6,205 voters turned out Tuesday to cast ballots. While the number was slightly lower than the nearly 8,000 residents who cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election, Cravens noted rainy weather may have kept some voters from the polls.