City council talks streets, plans virtual next meeting

Monday’s semi-monthly meeting saw no significant actions

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer
Mike Atkinson of the engineering firm Allgeier Martin (standing, at right) discusses city street construction and repair issues and alternative solutions with members of the Chillicothe City Council and other city officials during Monday night’s pre-council meeting workshop in the Chillicothe Municipal Utilities building.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

How best to proceed with city streets from a reconstruction and/or maintenance perspective was discussed by the Chillicothe City Council this past Monday during an hour-long “workshop” prior to its formal semi-monthly meeting.

The talk, which included input from Mike Atkinson of the engineering firm Allgeier Martin, revolved around two or three alternative plans the engineering firm had developed at the city’s request.

With many blocks and miles of streets considered to be significantly sub-par in the engineering company’s assessment (at the city’s request), the alternative plans – as referenced during the workshop discussion – didn’t seem to break much new ground in terms of alternatives.

Essentially, the issue seemed to boil down to four issues:

• How much money the city can access over a given time frame;

• How to balance, depending on that funding level, major reconstruction of busiest and most-decrepit thoroughfares with maintenance of other needy, but currently in better shape, streets;

• Paving with concrete or asphalt; and

• Prioritization of potential projects, incorporating usage, condition, and extent (distance) of work needed

Council members, Mayor Teresa Kelly, City Administrator Darin Chappell, City Attorney Robert Cowherd, and City Clerk Rozanne Frampton joined with Atkinson in touching on all of those issues.

The primary question seemed to revolve around, given the geographic location of the city and the array of weather extremes that entails, whether the longer-term stability of concrete street with curbs and guttering, while often more expensive in the short term, should outweigh using usually-cheaper asphalt, which routinely requires greater and more-frequent maintenance while having a shorter “life,” but financially allows for more linear feet of streets to be paved/repaired.

With the issue’s many facets far from exhausted by the hour’s discussion, council members agreed to do another workshop Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. Under Missouri’s “Sunshine Law,” such events are open to the public, the same as regular council meetings. The council cannot, however, by law, formally execute any action during the less-formal session billed as workshops.

During Monday’s formal council meeting, the only actions taken beyond the routine financial business of paying bills/payroll, etc., were to formally rectify the replatting of three lots of land in the industrial park at the site of the current Cloverleaf storage plant and to have the city go officially on record as denoting the site of the old Chillicothe Baking Co. facility where sliced bread was first introduced to the world as a commercial product nearly 100 years ago as a landmark.

The re-subdivision of the industrial park property, attorney Cowherd explained, was done about 20 years ago when what then was called Bond Cold Storage (since renamed Cloverleaf) located there. Somehow, he reported, while the change went through the normal channels, it somehow failed to come before the council for the final step in the official process. The council voted unanimously Monday to accept the 20-years-old re-subdividing of the property.

The vote to officially designate the old baking firm’s site at First and Elm streets as a landmark was a necessary step toward potential designation of the site as a national historic landmark. It carried unanimously, as well.

A couple of matters which came up for more-extended discussion in the late portion of the meeting, which had only very minimal public turnout, were conditions of the city-owned, but privately-managed, Green Hills Golf Course and the possibility of – until the COVID-19 situation gets more under control through distribution of vaccines – conducting council meetings only “virtually,”, i.e. via the internet.

Responding to an inquiry by first ward council member Denny Albertson and echoed by others, administrator Chappell disclosed that, having heard more than a few complaints himself, he had been in contact with the course management/operations firm Great Life Kansas City and that a representative of that company would attend and be available for questioning at the next council meeting on Jan. 25.

Among the chief problems at the course, Albertson reported, is the actual physical condition of the course’s grass, especially on some greens.

On the issue of conducting online meetings – which would be available live to the public online and – for those without internet access – through a dial-in connection via telephone, Chappell declared, council members – most of whom reported having participated in such online meetings in their business and/or private lives since the COVID-19 pandemic struck not quite a year ago – decided to plan to conduct the Jan. 25 online only.

It plans to use the prior week’s streets-related workshop, in which the members all will gather at one site (likely the Chillicothe Municipal Utilities building meeting room where council meetings have taken place for much of the past year), as a trial run for the members and city officials to “practice” utilizing their “tablet” devices and practicing their interaction “etiquette” in the way they would at the next week’s council meeting.