Advisory groups discuss "main street" effort

Thursday, March 11, 2010
Downtown Monett in a busy period. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

Monett City Council members discussed a wide range of plans andpolicies, including the new main street coordinator, with members of its Advisory Board last week.

Mayor Jim Orr said he feared the visioning work by the Drury University students was in danger of being forgotten with attendance dropping at subsequent committee meetings. City Administrator Dennis Pyle suggested finding someone who could work on downtown promotion and application for the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) initiative.

Orr said the city was committing to help fund the position of main street coordinator for two years. The status of the venture would be re-evaluated after that. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Suzy McElmurry said the chamber had agreed to commit to the venture for two years as well. Working arrangements were still taking shape, including a financial commitment from merchants.

A job description has been started, Pyle said. The main street coordinator will officially be a part-time chamber employee working 24 hours a week.

"This is a person who will be totally dedicated to downtown," Pyle said. "Part of their job will be organizing, marketing and economic restructuring of downtown. I think DREAM will be a major factor. That's a three-year program. The person will have their hands full with that."

Grant writing duties may be contracted out, the mayor added. The main street coordinator will be supervised by a board of two chamber members, two city representatives and two people from the community at large. Orr said it is likely the city will want to hire someone local, who knows the history of downtown.

As downtown improvements begin, the mayor said the building inspector was looking at requirements for an "old district" for maintaining a vintage look. Pyle said the city would take a very close look at solutions reached by the city of St. Joseph, which is presently taking an in-depth look at different codes for historic sites.

Roundabout on Broadway

Plans for the roundabout at Central and Broadway, one of the proposals in the Vision 2030 plan, are being drafted by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), the mayor said. Several in the group said they liked the roundabout idea the most out of ideas offered by the Drury students.

Commissioner Jerry Dierker said three designs were considered for making the roundabout. One included a traffic signal. Another started a block and a half to the west. The third would take out buildings within half a block of the intersection in all directions.

Dierker did not think MoDOT had any interest in funding such a venture. The project itself could be seven or eight years away. Advisors felt the current intersection is still dangerous, though an improvement from the previous arrangement. Concern was voiced about making a roundabout adequate for handling significant truck traffic.

Water system plans

None of the advisors reported hearing negative feedback from the public about the water rate increase passed last month. The 40-cent increase this year and 43-cent rise in 2011 was rolled into one ordinance to provide sufficient finances to pursue a bond issue for a treatment plant to purify muddy well water.

Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said building the planned treatment plant on the 31-acre Rutherford farm will enable the city to keep production from its two biggest wells, both of which are known for muddy episodes, in the system, plus the new #21 well on the Jack Henry and Associates campus. Consistent use from those three wells may be enough to meet the city's water needs for decades, Rauch said.

The water treatment plant would be built to process two million gallons a day. Rauch said the city is looking at a design very similar to a plant in West Plains. A plant treating well water is far less costly than one treating surface water from lakes, he added.

"I've talked to the industries," Rauch said. "They're not doing hand springs over [the rate increase]. They also need water. You look at the unit cost for water and wastewater and ours is a very competitive cost."

Flooding issues

A new idea is being considered to help the ongoing flooding on Broadway. Orr said someone is pursuing funding for a substantial storm water retention basin. Federal assistance may be available on an 80-20 arrangement, making the city's share around $1 million.

The advisors doubted whether sufficient public interest could be mounted at this time for a bond issue or sales tax. Several towns have opted for a quarter-cent sales tax for storm water improvements.

McElmurry said even though there were no guarantees of stopping future flooding, interest remained doing something to remedy the current situation. Several merchants had told her about mold problems persisting from Monett's last round of floods in September and October of 2009.

Central crossing

Fencing is now in place to close the railroad crossing on Central Avenue. The city has a key for a gate providing access to the rear of Main Street Feed for fire trucks or maintenance work, the mayor said.

Concern was voiced that despite the lack of a vehicle crossing, some pedestrians, especially residents on Marshall Hill, would cross the tracks on foot. The present arrangement, it was noted, requires a mile-long path on foot to make what would otherwise be a 300-yard crossing.

Dierker said the railroad would like to eventually enclose the entire stretch of railroad tracks with fencing.

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