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Monett Council hears furnace, fireworks, watch issues

Friday, November 27, 2009

(Photo)
The standpipe near Monett's North Park with the city slogan.
Monett City Council members held discussion on a new ordinance, heard presentations on two topics of community interest and listened to department heads describe work by city crews at the November monthly council meeting.

Public discussion had been scheduled over new restrictions on the location of wood burning furnaces. The proposal would require all such furnaces located outdoors to be placed at the rear of a building, not on the front or side yard.

No comments were offered in opposition to the ordinance revision. Building Inspector George Rausch said there has been no standard for setting wood burning furnaces. The city would require furnaces to be mounted on blocks.

Rausch agreed with one speaker that smoke from such a furnace could be an issue. Around 10 years ago one property owner had a furnace and began burning a wide range of inappropriate materials in it, creating noxious smoke. Rausch preferred to handle smoke issues under the nuisance ordinance.

Passage of the ordinance was scheduled for the Dec. 21 meeting. No furnaces in town would be exempt from the new regulation under a grandfather clause.

Fireworks ban

Jared Lankford, who owns 10 seasonal fireworks businesses in Missouri and one in Arkansas, asked council members to consider repealing the ban on selling fireworks within the city limits. The city's ban has been in place since 1979.

Lankford said it was a misconception that fireworks are extremely dangerous. He said fireworks are watched more closely than other products.

According to statistics released by the American Pyrotechnics Association, the number of injuries per 1,000 pounds of use has dropped from around 250 in the mid-1970s to around 25 today. At the same time the volume of use has increased by almost 920 percent.

Lankford suggested the city could net sales tax income if the six sales stands set up near the city limits were inside the city, along with earning business license fees. Overtime spent on police officers enforcing fireworks laws could be reduced. The city could still restrict specific products, like Neosho has done with bottle rockets.

Mayor Jim Orr said the council would look over the proposal and consider it. Later in the meeting he asked Fire Chief Tom Jones for an opinion. Jones felt the law needed no changes, citing the low number of injuries and fires that have occurred since the ban on both use and sales in the city has been in place.

Two police officers present felt lifting the ban would create more problems. Sergeant Dennis Camp said the city did not have additional officers on duty on July 4 so there would be no overtime savings. City Administrator Dennis Pyle added that his calculations only showed a potential for $1,750 in sales tax revenue from fireworks sales.

Neighborhood Watch

Athene Switzer, who has been organizing a Neighborhood Watch program around the St. Lawrence Catholic Church, told council members she has received a very positive reception from the community. Before the first public meeting on the undertaking she had commitments from 10 volunteers to walk their neighborhood.

Switzer said she had received calls from other parts of town and was more than willing to help organize block captains for those neighborhoods as well.

"I want to feel comfortable for my daughter to walk over to the neighbors," Switzer said. "I want to make more of a community environment like it was 75 years ago."

"We applaud your efforts. It's a good move for the community," said the mayor.

If there was enough participation, Switzer said signs may be available through the national Neighborhood Watch program. Street Superintendent Russ Balmas said he had some signs that had once been used that he could post.

Department reports

City department heads were asked by the mayor to summarize their latest activities.

Balmas said the street department would begin collecting leaves on Nov. 30. The street sweeper would continue gathering piles of loose leaves. Residents should not be alarmed if the sweeper does not take big piles, Balmas said, as crews will come for those later.

Police Sergeant Dennis Camp reported officers planned to put a chain lock on the entrance to South Park during the run of the Festival of Lights to reduce vandalism. An attempt would be made to unlock the gate at dawn, though Camp said there could be times early morning walkers would get there before police.

Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said electric department crews had been busy setting up displays for the Festival of Lights. Most of the problem from vandals, he said, have come from the theft of spotlights and extension chords, which were not put out early this year.

Water crews were continuing to build the connection between the well at the old ice plant ice and the main on Chapell Drive. The project had become a training opportunity for newer employees and thus was progressing slower, Rauch added.

Building Inspector Rausch reported his office has issued $9.9 million in building permits in 2009. He continued to work on getting specific properties around town cleaned up.

Rausch observed with interest contractors working in town lately "are all doing excellent work." Back when the city saw a boom in construction, Rausch had more problems keeping contractors adhering to building code standards. Now, at a time when the economy is weaker and the temptation could be greater to cut corners, Rausch was pleased to find contractors who had not worked in Monett before all working at high standards.

Bonnie Witt-Schulte, supervisor for dispatching at the police department, reported she had a list available of necessary supplies people should stock as part of winter awareness week.

Mayor Orr added the city's application to the State Emergency Management Agency for funds to pay for an additional dispatcher had been denied.

Pyle reported arrangements are proceeding for the city to secure federally funded recovery zone bonds through the counties. He has been working with bond counsel and expected to close on the deal on schedule by April 1.

Efforts to taken the federal census would begin on April 1, Pyle said. He has been working with the Complete Count organizers to get the undertaking started. The latest city newsletter focused on the census effort and was published in both English and Spanish for the first time to inform the public and stress the importance of participating.



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