Acting on a recommendation by the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission, council members hired the Kansas City firm of White, Goss, Bowers, March, Schulte and Weisenfels, of Kansas City, as its chief legal counsel.
Litigation is expected as the city presses its case for revenue from two sales taxes passe after Monett's TIF came into existence and to recover payments now halted by both Barry and Lawrence counties.
City Administrator Dennis Pyle said the White, Goss law firm specializes in economic development and TIFs. The lead legal counsel representing the city would by Christine T. Bushyhead, who has worked for the cities of Gladstone, Lee's Summit and Belton. Bushyhead has been a frequent lecturer for the Missouri Municipal League and has extensive experience dealing with land use, zoning and economic development incentives.
With the hiring of White, Goss, the city is expected to file a writ of mandamus in both Barry and Lawrence counties, seeking payment of funds to the city's TIF. The court will be asked to direct the two counties and the Barry County Emergency Services Board to articulate legal grounds for not paying the city's bills. Legal action on the case is expected to last around two years.
Original TIF debt paid
In positive financial news, Pyle reported the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has paid off its share of the innovative financing plan for the original TIF project in Monett around the Wal-Mart Supercenter. The $1,120,000 payment was expected to enable the city to pay off its original bonds in October 2010.
Pyle explained MoDOT had paid its debt off in the first part of its fiscal year instead of the end. By having the money, the city will be able to repurchase the outstanding bonds a year early, saving $42,250 in interest.
"We appreciate MoDOT stepping up and paying," said Mayor Jim Orr.
Cemetery lot price increase
A proposed rate hike for cemetery lots was introduced. Changes in the city's cemetery ordinance would raise rates from $200 to $300 for lots. The cost for opening a grave would also increase from $150 to $300.
According to a cost analysis done by Pyle, the cost of operating and maintaining the cemeteries has gone from $141,007 in fiscal year 2005-06 to $162,212 in fiscal year 2007-08. Increasing the price of lots would bring in an additional $3,200. Because grave openings run around double the number of lots sold in a year's time, raising the opening fee would bring in an additional $9,600.
Pyle also recommended raising the fee for grave openings on weekends or holidays from $25 to $100 extra. Prices charged by other towns showed an average grave opening cost of $91. The combined changes would raise an additional $14,000.
Phone company settlement
An ordinance approving a settlement and a binding unilateral agreement with Southwestern Bell Telephone and related entities was approved. Pyle said the settlement covers business license taxes on land lines only. The city is still part of ongoing litigation with Alltel and T-Mobile.
Pyle said the settlement cited in the ordinance is $126,521.23. There will be one more meeting with Southwestern Bell representatives on Aug. 24. Pyle expected little or no changes to come from the final meeting.
Monthly bills paid
Bills totaling $1,764,480.69 were paid for the month. The largest was $1,216,323.50 to Empire District Electric for wholesale electricity, including $234,278.30 for the fuel surcharge. Empire also received $24,000 on the final installment of the buy-out of service for the city taking over the Valley View subdivision, Heim trailer park and the Brownsberger property, a deal that has been in the works for about six years.
Final payment of $24,000 was also made on the property purchased from the Monett Industrial Development Corporation for the Justice Center land. Springfield Winwater Works was paid $38,000 for pipe Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said will be used to hook the well at the old ice plant onto the main at Chapell Drive. The new connection will provide enough water on the line to renew high pressure service to the International Dehydrated Foods and EFCO plants.
Rauch reported good news about the city well drilled on the edge of the Jack Henry and Associates campus. Originally too muddy for use, the well was taken out of service. It was pumped for two months this summer and has unexpectedly cleared.
"It's not sparkling," Rauch said, "but the water is as clear and low in turbidity as the number 9 and 12 wells are."
Rauch said he is now exploring putting in a chlorine detention area for the new well as well as building a well house. Once both are done, the well can be added to the city's system.
Street Superintendent Russ Balmas said his crews are presently working on finishing the final stretch of sidewalk for the Greenways trail on Eisenhower.
Police Chief Tim Schweder reported he will be attending a legislative update in Springfield with other police chiefs concerning state law changes.
Building Inspector George Rauch said permits are up to $8.4 million for new construction in the city this year. A quarter of that amount covers the new additions at the Southwest Area Career Center.