Cole County rejects sales tax hike, Baptist Building still for sale
By Allen Palmeri
February 9, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is still searching for a buyer for the Baptist Building after Cole County voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed deal Feb. 8 that would have sold the building to the county for $2.75 million.
By a 3-to-1 margin (74.4 percent to 25.6 percent), voters turned down a half-cent sales tax that would have resulted in the acquisition and subsequent demolition of the Baptist Building to clear the way for a proposed $36 million justice center in Jefferson City. Plans had called for the county to acquire the 400 block of East High Street and level the Baptist Building in order to erect a facility containing a 150-bed jail, sheriff’s department offices and six courtrooms.
Presiding Cole County Commissioner Bob Jones signed the contingency contract with MBC Executive Director David Clippard in August. Jones told the Jefferson City News-Tribune Feb. 9 that the large margin of defeat makes the future of the proposed justice center “hard to predict.”
Meanwhile, Jody Shelenhamer, chairman of the MBC’s relocation study committee and a member of First Baptist Church, Bolivar, said that it would be hard for him, as someone who does not live in Cole County, to analyze what caused so many people to vote “no.” Unofficially, there were 9,752 votes against the half-cent sales tax and 3,348 for it. The margin of defeat was almost identical to the 74.2 percent to 25.8 percent margin of defeat Cole Countians handed homosexual activists on Aug. 3 by voting in favor of Amendment 2 that makes the definition of marriage strictly between a man and a woman in the state constitution.
“We’re disappointed, but we know that God’s will is involved,” Shelenhamer said. “We’ll be patient and continue to get back to work.”
He said his committee plans to meet again in March, at the Baptist Building. Committee members will set the agenda, he said.
Clippard said that on a positive note, everyone now knows that the Baptist Building is for sale. He echoed Shelenhamer’s comments about the need to get back to work.
“We will be entertaining other possible buyers and contracts,” Clippard said. “At this moment in time (Feb. 9), we have no other buyers identified.
“The MBC is under no pressure, nor does it have any deadlines, to sell the Baptist Building. It has served Missouri Baptists well. But we will continue to explore its sale and replacement in an effort to lower overall operations costs and thereby channel more dollars into missions, church planting, and helping our churches fulfill their Great Commission mandate of Acts 1:8.”
The eight-story Baptist Building has been home to the MBC since 1970. The building is 77 years old, and it is generally accepted throughout the MBC that the large amount of money that is currently being spent on utilities and maintenance could be greatly reduced in a more modern, efficient facility.