On Monday, a week before election day, Barry County Associate Circuit Judge Carr Woods ruled that election results for the tax-supported Purdy Fire Protection District issue will not count.
"The court is reluctant to set aside the order of May 12, 2006, due to the election scheduled for Aug. 8 regarding the formation of this fire district, however, the court finds that due to the confusion regarding the legal description in this case, which description the court finds did not properly notify all of the prospective voters who may be located within the boundaries of the proposed district who might have initially protested the petitioner's petition or who might vote for or against the organization of such district in the election, the court finds that it is in the best interest of the petitioner and the voters of said proposed district that this matter be decided without any doubt or confusion to the creation there-of," wrote Woods in his decision.
"It is there-fore ordered and adjudged that the Court's order of May 12, 2006, be, and it is hereby set aside and held for naught," wrote Woods.
The judgment came after a long court battle that began when the Monett Rural Fire Association filed a petition to block the ballot proposition in June.
The Monett Rural Fire Association claimed that the proposed Purdy Fire Protection District, which is based roughly on the Purdy R-II School District, would encompass a number of Monett's dues-paying members.
The Purdy Volunteer Fire Department and Monett Rural Fire Association's current "historical" boundaries overlap in Barry County.
In addition to filing the petition to stop the Purdy Fire Protection District election, Monett Rural Fire Association has filed a petition to establish official boundaries for the Monett association.
Mike Redshaw, Purdy Volunteer Fire Department chief, said he was shocked by Woods' decision to set the election results aside. Redshaw said the Purdy Fire Department was confident that the Monett association's petition would be overruled.
"We are very upset that the people won't have a chance to decide the issue," said Redshaw. "We thought we were taking the high road, and we were comfortable that we did everything that was supposed to be done in putting the petition in. Now we will collect our thoughts and decide how to deal with the decision."
The Purdy Fire Department gave legal notice of its intent to seek voter approval for a tax-supported fire protection district during a public hearing that was held May 12.
Monett Rural Fire Associa-tion and several other organiza-tions that would have been affected by the proposed district did not attend the public hearing to express opposition to the ballot issue.
In June, Woods issued an order plac-ing the Purdy Fire Protection District issue on the Aug. 8 ballot.
When the Monett Rural Fire Association became aware of the situation, it sued in Barry County to reverse the judge's order.
Although Woods initially said that the Monett association had no legal standing because it is not a qualified voter within the proposed district, he allowed the association to amend its lawsuit petition to include five dues-paying property owners within the proposed district.
On July 28, Monett Rural Fire Association attorney John Woodard challenged the accuracy of the boundary descriptions that will appear on the Aug. 8 ballot.
After reviewing the ballot, Woods decided that errors in description that will appear on the ballot showed that the proposed district had not been properly defined in the petition filed on May 12.
Although the election results will not count, the ballots for the proposed Purdy Fire Protection District have already been printed and citizens will be allowed to cast a vote for or against the issue.
"We are encouraging residents to go ahead and cast their vote," said Redshaw. "If the majority of the residents vote yes, then we will pursue the issue again. If the majority vote no, then we won't waste our time