City moves on sidewalk upgrades

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Several property owners on the 700 block of South Main Street met with city officials and MoDOT representatives Oct. 31 to discuss a possible sidewalk project that would bring the walkway up to ADA compliance. (Sarah Reed/The Concordian)

Property owners' opinions on the necessity to redo the sidewalk on the 700 block of South Main Street seems to vary as much as the grade. While some agree there's a need to bring the west sidewalk to ADA compliance at a quoted price of $18,500, others have fairly new walkways in front of their businesses. The latter don't seem to be in favor of the project, but also don't want to hold it up should a majority of the property owners agree.

During a Concordia Board of Aldermen meeting Monday evening, aldermen discussed the city's options for paying for the project -- which would be accomplished while MoDOT repairs the adjacent stairs. They also received more input from two property owners who were present.

Jeff Peterson, owner of a vacant lot in the center of the block, indicated he was in favor of the project, but not in favor of having owners fund it in its entirety.

"The difficulty here is ... having it all come at one time from the owners, when what we're really talking about here is city infrastructure for the future of Concordia, Mo.," Peterson said. "What I would prefer is that the city find a mechanism to participate in the $18,500."

Peterson agreed the city needs to move forward with bringing the sidewalks into ADA compliance, but urged the board to question the motivation.

"Are the five of you going to do something on the back of the property owners, or are you going to do it hand-in-hand with the property owners?" he said.

Peterson, who said he's developed real estate for the past 25 years, had proposed a different sidewalk design early last month. It called for tapering the sidewalk toward the middle -- creating a street-level pad in the center of the block that ramps north and south. The city and MoDOT officials questioned if that would establish new drainage problems in addition to the amount of space available.

For the property owners who've installed sidewalks in recent years, little incentive is available.

"My sidewalk is already compliant," said Britt Hasselbring of the walkway in front of Britt's Central Drug Store. "All we're going to do is tear up the sidewalk and put the same thing back in."

Later, he stated he wasn't opposed to the project as a whole, but didn't see this as the best plan.

Alderman Ruthie Fischer, who wasn't present for the previous board meeting, asked about funding options. Should the city go all-in and pick up the entire bill, more than $12,000 could come from the tourism budget.

"We have about $36,000 in additional tourism funds," City Administrator Dale Klussman noted, "and the tourism board has already deemed downtown as one of those tourism places."

MoDOT will need an easement the width of five feet in order to reconstruct the stairs, regardless of the city's decision on sidewalks. But the transportation department is looking to negotiate the right of way if sidewalks are part of the project. The estimate hasn't yet been quoted.

"The safest and easiest way is just to let MoDOT put the (stairs) back to its elevation that it's at right now," Klussman said. "The downfall to that -- ADA comes in, in a couple of years (for example), and we're right back where we are now, with the potential of the investment being greater, because you're going to have to pull those steps out, too, when you go to replace the sidewalk ..."

Aldermen approved moving forward with Mo-DOT on the project, pending the city attorney's approval in addition to later determining the city's level of participation.

During the meeting, the city repealed a decision it made in December 2012.

This time last year, then-aldermen named Meyer Motors as the city's preferred towing service.

The adopted ordinance required all city departments to contact the company for non-preferred tows," meaning when vehicle owners request a tow, but not a specific tow company.

Monday, city officials repealed the ordinance and indicated they would establish a rotation for tow calls that come into Concordia Police Department.

The change reportedly came about when CPD recently changed dispatching centers from Lafayette County to the city of Higginsville.

"This ordinance allows (us) to develop a non-preferred towing rotation," Klussman said. "This is just, in essence, allowing department heads to get ahold of dispatching, and dispatch will do a rotation for those services that have applied to do towing in Concordia."

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