April 4, 2005 – Posted at 5:39 p.m. CST
POPLAR BLUFF, MO -- In 2003, the stretch of highway 67 from Poplar Bluff to Fredericktown had twice as many fatal crashes as any other two-lane road in Missouri.
A vote in the city of Poplar Bluff is trying to change that, but those opposed to the tax claim there are more important matters to take care of. Supporters of this half-cent sales tax say if this measure doesn't pass, it would be at east 20 years before MODOT would have sufficient funding for the project.
"We have an opportunity to reduce those fatalities to reduce those accidents and we want to take advantage of that now," said Tom Lawson, chairman of the Highway 67 Project.
"If it will benefit Poplar Bluff growing, then tomorrow let them vote yes for the tax. I can live with either side of it," said Marion West of the Committee for Effective Use of Tax Dollars.
West is one of the few people in Poplar Bluff who does not support the Highway 67 half-cent sales tax.
"We're opposed to the half-cent sales tax because we think it ought to be an infrastructure for Butler County," said West, "We think taxing our town is good, but such a heavy load on our town, it can eliminate our infrastructure."
The plan is to four-lane nearly 50 miles of Highway 67 between Poplar Bluff and Fredericktown, eventually opening up a four-lane corridor between Chicago and Dallas. Supporters say it could keep big bucks from driving off.
"This is a major issue, it's a historic vote for us in Poplar Bluff," said Lawson, "Historically and statistically anytime you have four-lanes that come into a community, it causes growth and progress of your economy."
If the half-cent sales tax does pass Tuesday, it will raise 50-cents for every $100 dollars spent in Poplar Bluff, but opposition to the matter say they just want a chance for everyone in Butler County to have a say.
"If this precinct was added to it, we'd beat it," said West confidently.
Only folks in the city limits will be allowed to vote, but it's not stopping people from all over Butler County from taking sides.
"We need to let the state build it and we need to take care of the infrastructure of this county and we'll make more money for this county quicker than that highway," said West.
"Poplar Bluff is the regional hub here for all the sales tax, and it's the local share is what we are responsible for," said Lawson.