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Leaders believe they still have public support

Two leaders of efforts to get major improvements to U.S. 67 from Festus to Newport, Ark., say they do not think developments Friday in Poplar Bluff will have a significant negative impact on public support for the project.

Felony stealing and forgery charges were filed Friday against Scott Faughn, former president of the Highway 67 Coalition and the Highway 67 Corporation. Faughn, also a former mayor of Poplar Bluff, resigned from the coalition, corporation and as executive vice-president of The Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce earlier this month.

The voters of Poplar Bluff will be deciding on a special half-cent sales tax April 5 to provide local funding toward improving U.S. 67 from two to four lanes between Cherokee Pass and nine miles north of Poplar Bluff. The new head of the Highway 67 Corporation indicated Friday he is optimistic the voters will continue to support the project.

“It is a very regrettable situation and I’m sure that everyone who knows Scott and has worked with him would feel the same way,” said Tom Lawson, new president of the corporation, “however, Scott resigned from the Highway 67 project about two weeks ago. We’ve been moving on, which we must do.”

Lawson went on to tell a reporter with the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff, “The project is far more important than one single person and we all know that. We have great people and great support. We will move forward and hope for the best results on April 5.”

The vice-president of the Highway 67 Coalition, Mayor Charles Rorex of Farmington, said Sunday the news of the criminal charges is a sad development, but not one that he feels will impede efforts to improve U.S. 67.

Rorex confirmed that Faughn had resigned as the coalition’s president but said the group has not had a meeting since that occurred. The coalition is scheduled to meet next month and at that time will probably deal with the vacancy.

“This will not affect our efforts at all,” Rorex said of the coalition. “We will go on and I am confident the project will eventually be carried out.”

It was confirmed by Rorex that Faughn did not have access to any Highway 67 Coalition money. He said that is handled by Mayor Gaylon Watson of Piedmont, the coalition’s treasurer.

“We don’t have enough money to get you out of the county,” Rorex said of the coalition’s fund.

Rorex said the officers of the coalition were contacted by the member of the Highway Patrol who investigated Faughn, but to his knowledge none were able to provide anything to aid the probe. He said that while he knew allegations had been made about Faughn and missing Highway 67 NOW funds, it was not until Sunday that he learned of the formal charges.

Lawson is a man in whom Rorex says he has complete confidence and anticipates will take over the leadership role in the highway improvement move. He said Lawson had already been to Farmington to meet another former coalition leader, Dr. Douglas Ross, and gather material collected over the years about the highway project.

“Tom is thorough and a true communicator,” Rorex said. “He is just who we need out front with this project.”

Lawson has some impressive credentials, Rorex pointed out. He was superintendent of the Hazelwood School District, the largest in St. Louis County at the time. While there, far ahead of any other district in the state, he established self-insurance for the district’s employees.

A native of the Poplar Bluff area, Lawson moved back there after retiring from Hazelwood School District. In recent years he had served as city administrator for Poplar Bluff, a position he held while Faughn was that city’s youngest mayor. Lawson resigned the municipal position last year.

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