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Our Opinion: Tours resume as prison site continues to deteriorate

The Missouri State Penitentiary tour season opened Friday, only days after Jefferson City voters defeated a proposal that would have financed some renovations at the site.

New tour options have been added this year in an effort to capitalize on surging popularity in 2011.

Tour attendance last year topped 17,000 visitors, a 47 percent increase over the prior year, according to Ryan Winkler, communications manager for the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, which schedules the tours.

Added this year will be public overnight paranormal investigations, held monthly.

Area residents may remember investigators from the television show “Ghost Hunters” visited the prison last year to film a program for the SyFy channel.

The public overnight venture will allow members of the public to share a similar experience from 10 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday on the last weekend of each month.

Age restrictions and ticket prices may be found on the website, www.MissouriPenTours.com, which also contains information about other tours.

Also new this year will be a three-hour history tour, which will amplify the historical review provided during the popular two-hour history tours.

These and previously offered tours are gearing up as the fate of historic structures at the prison site remains in limbo.

Rejection of the Transformation sale tax negates more than $3 million in revenues dedicated to renovate three housing units.

Also included was money to relocate the gas chamber at MSP. We encourage redevelopment officials to reconsider that proposal. Some of our readers correctly observed that relocation might devalue the historic aspect of the gas chamber. They also pointed out visitors who travel distances for a walking tour of MSP will not be daunted by added steps.

In the aftermath of the vote, Gov. Jay Nixon has said the state will pursue plans to clean up the site. He said the state was awaiting the outcome of the vote to determine if its cleanup would dovetail with city efforts, but now will proceed independently.

We are acutely aware the state budget — which again includes cuts and layoffs — holds little prospect for financing prison site renovations at this time.

Waiting to begin, however, is not timely.

Redevelopment will not be possible if neglect reduces the site to rubble.

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