Chillicothe (Mo.) Council Sets Repaved Litton Road Speed Limit at 25 mph

Paul Sturm
Workers were busy Monday morning trying to complete the final asphalting of Litton Road in northeast Chillicothe to complete that reconstruction project. However, the midday thunderstorm which raced through the area forced work to be halted for the day with still a relatively-short stretch yet to be completed, it was disclosed during Monday evening's (Aug. 10, 2020) Chillicothe City Council meeting. Due to a previous commitment by the asphalting contractor to have the crew at another site Tuesday, the final hour or two of work to finish the job might not occur until later in the week, it was announced. As a result of an ordinance passed by the council at Monday's meeting, the speed limit on Litton Road, which extends from the east side of Daryl Danner Memorial Park to the northeast corner of Green Hills Golf Course

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Although a midday thunderstorm Monday (Aug. 10, 2020) prevented the last, short stretch of paving in the Litton Road reconstruction project from being finished, the Chillicothe City Council took action at its regular semi-monthly meeting that evening to wrap up details for the street’s future maintenance and operation.

The street, technically the west half of which is owned by the city and the east half of which is owned by Livingston County’s Rich Hill Township, long has been in poor condition with an extremely-uneven, washboard-like surface and many large potholes. Through the accessing of some state financial assistance, the city, county, and township arranged for financing of the reconstruction and asphalt paving of the thoroughfare.

With the street not quite completed – that should occur by week’s end, according to a representative for the contractor, but already partially accessible to traffic, the council acceded to the request of a half-dozen residents along Litton Road to establish a 25 miles-per-hour speed limit for the approximately-half-mile street. City representatives pledged to do extensive speed-enforcement monitoring of it, particularly in the near-term, to reinforce motorist awareness of the limit.

The council also passed another ordinance related to the Litton Road project, establishing city responsibility for maintenance and management of the jointly-owned structure. The county and township governments will provide a degree of financial support for the city’s maintenance expenses.

Robert Cowherd, city attorney, noted that, under the ordinance the council considered and passed during the meeting, any “major” maintenance or repair costs would be shared by the township and county in a manner similar to the cost-sharing of the reconstruction project.

On the subject of streets, the council also was briefed by Darin Chappell, city administrator, on the status of projects included in the city’s 2020 streets project program. The most significant of those repair/maintenance/reconstruction projects, Mitchell Road in southeast Chillicothe, is underway and progressing satisfactorily.

The administrator also share with the council that the civil engineering firm of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, which is overseeing both the Litton Road project, as well as the streets project work, is – at his request – developing a new street-improvement prioritization list through a survey of city streets. The intent is to identify the wisest use of funds in developing street-work plans for at least the next several years. That list is expected to be provided to the city by the engineers by the end of the year, if not before then, Chappell stated.

The other matter which consumed the most of the council’s time at Monday’s meeting in the Chillicothe Municipal Utilities building meeting room was a request from Hope Haven Industries’ board of directors to have a portion of its property which it no longer utilizes rezoned from a residential designation (R-3) to a multi-use one (MU-1). Such action would help facilitate possible sale of the approximately-2.2-acres tract at 420 Martin Street, Hope Haven representative Brent Turner shared.

While the request came to the council with a 4-1 recommendation for approval from the planning and zoning board, a person spoke against it, asserting he was representing some residents and property owners in the vicinity of the Hope Haven Industries site at Clay and Martin streets.

The current opposition of the rezoning, Rich Thieme said, was because of uncertainty about potential uses of any potential new purchaser of the land which, while they might fall under MU-1 parameters, could involve increased traffic flow, noise, or other potential nuisances to current residents.

In speaking first to the council about the proposal, Turner noted that Hope Haven Industries, which offers employment opportunities for developmentally-disabled persons, has owned the site in question, as well as other adjoining parcels, and been in operation at the site for over 50 years, predating the city’s current comprehensive zoning regulations. When current zoning laws were enacted, the area of the city’s east-central location where the Hope Haven property is was restricted to primarily residential use/development (R-3). However, the land owned by the Hope Haven board was “grandfathered” in as a permissible excepted use.

Given that the 420 Martin Street site has been used for non-residential purposes by Hope Haven for more than a half-century without being problematic for surrounding residents and property owners, Turner contended, on behalf of its board, that a formal change of that site to MU-1 would not represent a change in the use of the property from what it has been, but that it would be helpful in finding a potential buyer for the land and existing structure.

After lengthy debate and consideration, which involved a majority of the four council members present, as well as Mayor Theresa Kelly, administrator Chappell, and attorney Cowherd, the council voted 3-1 (First Ware Councilman Denny Albertson was not present) in favor of a motion by Second Ward Councilman Wayne Cunningham to follow the planning and zoning board’s recommendation and approve the rezoning to MU-1 status. Voting in favor were Cunningham, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Pam Jarding, and Councilman-at-large Tom Ashbrook. In opposition was Third Ward Councilman Michael Smith, in whose ward the property in question lies.

The Aug. 10 meeting also was the occasion of the public hearing on the city’s 2020 property tax rate.

Once called into session by the mayor following the completion of routine business at meeting’s start, the hearing quickly came and went with no comment from the public. City Auditor Hannah Fletcher disclosed that the proposed tax rates of 0.6197 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation for the general operational fund and .1945 cents for the parks and recreation fund were identical to the 2019 rates and that, due to an increase in property values in the city, those rates had generated approximately $50,000 more in revenue than the previous year.

When no citizen input was offered, the hearing was closed and the council voted to enact the proposed rates for 2020.

Josh Norris, city parks and recreation department supervisor, discussed with the council the possibility of utilizing some money offered by a local foundation or two to re-roof the four shelter houses in Simpson Park, preferably with metal sheeting. The projected city share of the costs would be about $2,500, he noted, with most of that amount currently available within his department’s maintenance fund.

Generally indicating support for the idea, the council directed Norris to proceed with developing specific cost projections, as well as firming up the potential private-source contributions to the work and any others which might be arranged. It is possible that a Daryl Danner Memorial Park shelter house originally donated by the Chillicothe Rotary Club (which also donated one of the Simpson Park shelters) might also be included in the project, based on a suggestion from Ashbrook, who said he is a member of that club’s board.

Additionally at Monday’s council meeting, unanimous approval was given for use of a portion of Simpson Park for a Special Olympics fund-raising event – the Polar Plunge – next Feb. 13. The event has been held in the past at Lake Viking in the general Gallatin area, but that site will not be available, event representative Carrie Pfiefer told the council. The regional “Polar Plunge” usually draws around 100 participants, Pfiefer reported.

The only other matter to come before the council was a request for a conditional-use permit for AT&T to erect a communications/cellphone tower at 1 East Bridge St. in east Chillicothe. Following the unanimous recommendation of the zoning board, the request was granted by the council, also unanimously (4-0).

The meeting’s advance agenda had included discussion and possible action on amending the city’s personnel policy regarding overtime for police department staff members. However, when that time came, the mayor announced that the item had been postponed.

At the conclusion of the open meeting, the council voted to adjourn to a closed, executive session.