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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

City advisory committee gets casino update

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reports on a wide range of city projects were shared with the Monett City Council Advisory Committee last week.

Mayor Jim Orr said council members anticipate the economy will continue to improve heading into a new fiscal year on April 1. They project sales tax revenues will improve by 1.5 percent after rising 10 percent in the current fiscal year.

Raises of 2.5 percent are planned for city employees. Orr said the health insurance premium for city employees fortunately stayed flat for the coming year.

Department heads have been asked to request capital improvements within budget constraints. Halfway through the coming year, the mayor expected to review revenues again and reconsider capital purchases, as was done during the past year.

Among the capital projects moving forward will be rebuilding the City Park Casino. Orr said the popular facility, built in 1926, would be used for the Aug. 7 primary election, after which it will be torn down due to structural problems.

According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, plans for the new building will be ready in May. The new building will be larger at 7,500 square feet, up from the present 5,800 square feet. The facility will be built large enough to hold 450 people, and it will still divide into two rooms for different functions. Construction costs have been projected at $900,000.

Orr said the council plans to keep the name "casino," which originally meant "meeting place."

Plans will also move forward to build a new clubhouse for the golf course. The $1 million debt to build the second nine holes has been paid off, Orr said. The council is budgeting $135,000 to erect a club house in the center of the course, south of the new Monett Area YMCA building.

The location will offer golfers a chance to take a break after playing nine holes, Orr said. Commissioner Mike Brownsberger said the clubhouse will have a parking lot for up to 30 cars. Overflow parking during tournaments will be able to use the YMCA lot.

The consultant hired to help reduce grass loss on the golf course has made two trips to Monett. Orr said he has provided valuable direction for the maintenance crew.

Council members have had more contact with Drury University officials over the proposed new downtown campus. Orr said Drury now envisions putting an events center meeting area in the former Jumping-Jacks building that would seat between 400 and 500.

Drury officials were interested in the city committing to support an events center. Orr invited them to come back for more talks after Drury has a firm commitment to move forward on its plans.

Expansion plans at the Monett Municipal Airport have been on hold while federal officials approve the environmental study. Orr said the review has been underway for nine months. Moving forward with land acquisition will depend on available funding from federal and state transportation officials.

Installation of the new automated weather observatory station (AWOS) has proven to be a significant addition, Orr said. According to Brian Hunter, who heads the aviation division of Jack Henry and Associates, pilots from Monett can get the same local weather information from the Monett airport that they would otherwise get from the Springfield airport.

Orr praised Airport Superintendent Howard Frazier for installing the AWOS unit, saving the city the cost of hiring a contractor.

Housing construction in Monett has stalled and will wait until the economy recovers more fully, Orr said. Advisory board member Harold Schelin said few buyers can come up with the 20 to 25 percent down requested of financial institutions at the present time.

Advisory board member Rex Kay recalled that prior to 10 years ago, contractors had only built custom houses in Monett. The record 50 houses built in Monett in 2001 reflected a change in strategy by developers. Kay believed that people will need confidence that jobs are going to last before trusting the economy enough to bring back the housing market.

Paperwork for the appeal over the judge's ruling in favor of Monett in the tax increment financing (TIF) litigation has now been filed by Barry County and Barry County 911, Orr said. Lawrence County, which withdrew from the appeal, has paid the city $218,000 in escrowed back payments. About $1.5 million remain held in escrow from Barry County and Barry County 911, Pyle said.

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