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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mayor offers first State of the City address at C of C meeting

Monday, May 23, 2011

(Photo)
Monett Mayor Jim Orr, standing at left, and City Administrator Dennis Pyle, at right, delivered a State of the City Address to the Monett Chamber of Commerce membership mingle last Thursday at the Walmart Supercenter in Monett, which hosted the luncheon. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff] [Order this photo]
Monett Mayor Jim Orr and City Administrator Dennis Pyle provided the first State of the City report during the May membership mingle of the Monett Chamber of Commerce. The gathering was held in the garden center at Walmart, arranged by Cindy Stone, manager of the Monett Walmart Supercenter and a new member of the chamber board.

Orr said the council members and city officials began preparations for the fiscal year beginning on April 1 with meetings in January. The $39 million budget projected a 1 percent increase by taking a conservative view of revenue growth.

In the first two months of the new year, sales tax income has grown over 2010 levels by an average of 13 percent. If increases continue after six months, Orr said the budget will be reviewed and commissioners will consider adding capital improvement projects at that time.

The year's main project will be advancing plans for a new $12 million water treatment plant. The bond issue, which will be placed on the Aug. 2 ballot, will generate no additional expenses to system users.

Orr said he has long been concerned about well contamination or simply running out of water. The treatment plant will provide a way to use water from three wells, including the biggest producers, which have a history of turning muddy and unuseable.

If the public approves the bond sale, construction of the plant will probably begin in 2012. City crews were presently laying pipe to carry water to the plant site. Using city employees will reduce the project cost by $1 million, Orr said.

Pyle reviewed work on the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative, which he described as a three-year program providing planning and technical services. Eighty percent of the cost will come from the state. The city is partnering with the downtown businesses and the chamber to cover additional costs.

"DREAM will focus on developing downtown as a destination point," Pyle said.

Efforts will focus on finding a mix of retail outlets, businesses and housing. Pyle said the effort seeks a long-term strategic plan that will be sustainable.

Orr said the engineering firm hired by the city to work on a flood mitigation plan had been in town last week and walked Kelly Creek. According to Pyle, the engineers would propose leaving the existing channel intact and adding a deeper and wider bypass channel that would address either a 10-year, 50-year or 100-year event.

"There is no doubt from the models they've looked at that they can address the flood level on Broadway and lower it," Pyle said.

"This sounds like something the city can do for $4 million to $5 million," said Orr. "It will not happen overnight. We have to find funds to do it."

Pyle also reviewed the city's tax increment financing (TIF) program. He described a TIF as a redevelopment area within a defined boundary to spur economic development. Infrastructure was added at city expense, and bonds were issued to reimburse the city. Revenues from newly generated sales and property taxes pay back the bonds.

The city created two TIF districts and completed all the proposed improvements. Pyle said the effort left "clearly visible" results, including the Walmart location. New tax revenue generated over 13 years, which Pyle said would not have occurred without the improvements, has supported repayment of the debt.

Litigation over Monett's TIFs followed the city's discovery of county-wide sales taxes on sales in the TIF districts that were not being paid toward the TIF.

Pyle reviewed how the city approached Barry County officials over the quarter-cent sales tax for 911 services and Lawrence County officials over the half-cent sales tax for the county's Justice Center after legal research showed the taxes should pay the TIF.

The meetings resulted in three months of silence from county officials, Pyle said. The city subsequently sent a demand letter for payment. The counties responded by stopping all TIF payments and asking that all past payments be refunded on the grounds that Monett's TIFs were improperly formed. Litigation ensued over the next two years, leading to a court ruling last month in favor of the city.

Pyle said the court has until Aug. 5 to finalize the judgment. The losing parties then have 10 days to appeal the case to a higher court.

"This situation has caused a lot of stress in the relationship between the city and the counties," Pyle said. "We felt we had a fiduciary responsibility to the bond holders. We had to report [the additional taxes] and try to collect it."

At the conclusion of the State of the City address, Orr added he had always tried as an educator to surround himself with quality people. He said the best thing he had done since coming into office was hiring Pyle.

In welcoming chamber members to Walmart, Stone offered a history of the retailer in Monett. Walmart opened its doors on Nov. 14, 1972 in a 30,000-square-foot facility with around 40 employees.

The store expanded to 139,000 square feet when it opened the Supercenter in June 1998, later growing to 150,000 square feet of space. Walmart today employs more than 400 people in Monett.

Chamber members used the occasion to network. Lunch was provided by Walmart.



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