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City gymnastics center will sell to highest bidder

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Monett City Council voted to put its building at 2150 Park St., known as the Monett Gymnastics Center, up for sale at the February city council meeting.

The 8,000-square-foot gymnastics building, located behind the Ramey supermarket, was built by the city in 2002 at a cost of $198,500. At the time, more than 200 children were participating in the gymnastics program run by the city's recreation department.

The building has been leased for the past five years by Shawn Hines, of Neosho, who asked to be released from the lease agreement last year to return to school.

Council members agreed to accept bids for the building's purchase with the goal of selling it to "the best bidder that would offer the highest and best use of the property with the maximum benefit to the community." The building and its contents were offered for sale as is. The current estimated market value is $310,000.

Mayor Jim Orr said that when Randy and Julie Witt gave the city one acre of land specifically to build a gymnastics center in December 1999, the Witts received a tax letter in return.

City Administrator Dennis Pyle said the city contacted the Witts out of courtesy, and they had no problems with the proposed sale. No covenants were placed on the deed preventing the sale, Pyle said.

Bids for the purchase of the building are due by March 9. Pyle said at the present time, the city was not interested in lease proposals, though an audience member expressed interest.

Under city management, the gymnastics program started in 1992 with 15 children and expanded from the Armory on Euclid to the former Wilks Lumber building on 13th Street, where the International Institute for Learning is located. From there, the program relocated behind the Napa store, where Downtown Tire is now located, before moving to the present building.

The city began leasing the gymnastics center in April 2002 when it was determined the city was not making money running the program.

Annexation approved

Council members approved the annexation of storage buildings owned by Wilber and Gerry Woodward, located north of the Clark Community Mental Health building on North Central.

Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said the property represented an island surrounded by land already in the city limits. The annexation was welcomed.

No objections were raised to the proposed ordinance change that would reopen water and sewer sales to non-residents. During the public comment session, Rauch said the current ordinance requiring annexation for water and sewer service or a pledge to annex when eligible was passed in 1994 to avoid small pockets of land getting services without allowing service mains to be extended further.

According to City Prosecutor Amy Boxx, pledges of annexation could not be enforced legally. The question arose again with the extension of major water mains both to the north and south of the current city limits to provide a loop for the entire system.

"Someone adjacent to these new mains will be able to request to be connected whether or not they have annexed in," Rauch told The Times. "There will be the customary tap fee plus I intend to also charge them the cost of boring the road for those who are on the opposite side. We are not going to open-cut the roads for service lines.

"I have had several calls and a couple of in-office visits from potential new customers along this new line being run to the south and over to Highway 37," Rauch added.

Reasons to object to annexation have diminished over time. Rauch said the city's property tax, on the books in 1994, has since been repealed. Zoning has expanded to allow agricultural use. The availability of police and trash service plus significant reduction in homeowner's insurance with city fire protection makes annexation attractive today.

"I think this will work to our advantage as the city grows," Rauch said.

The ordinance proposing a penalty for false declarations raised no objections. Boxx asked for the new charge for cases where victims repeatedly fail to appear in court to testify.

Final reading and passage for both ordinances was scheduled for the March 20 council meeting.

An alternative retirement benefit through the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) was introduced. The request to explore alternatives was spearheaded by employee Marvin Hensley and the option available received overwhelimg support from fellow employees.

Under the plan, employees would pay 4 percent of their retirement premium. A second reading with public comment was scheduled for March 6.

Bills totaling $1,383,022.52 were paid for the month. Major bills included $971,952.86 to Empire District Electric for wholesale electricity; $24,000 to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for the city's part in upgrading the crossing at Chapell Drive; $21,000 for water mains from Waterwork Specialties; $15,000 to Professional Turf for a sand pro infield groomer for the baseball fields at North Park; and $11,000 to Fritz Implement for a mower for the airport.

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