The start of the public comment process on distribution of the community development block grant monies brought only one citizen to the podium. She asked why the greatest amount of community development block grant monies, $317,929 out of a total of $714,000 was going to revitalize a small block section of the city when the money could better benefit its citizens. "Downtown [where the project is located] is the heart of the city...our lifeblood," Mayor Phil Stinnett responded.
City Manager Mark Rohr, the author of the project, wanted the audience to know that his project was cut 20% after the City received a federal reduction of 10% overall. Planning and CDBG Manager Dick Largent explained that the use of the grant for historic preservation which includes more than just the downtown area was to end the blight facing many areas of the city.
The Mayor was pleased to announce that grant money for the renovation of property would be augmented by partnering with the group Hearts 'N Hammers. He suggested that 30-35 houses owned by qualified residents [based on income requirements] would be renovated by volunteers, about double what could be accomplished with just the money allotment alone.
When Councilman Guy Palmieri heard that $5200 was going to be earmarked for the management of a homeless database, he wanted to know what the City was doing to reduce its homeless population. That they are there because they want to be there was not necessarily what Palmieri expected to hear.
O'Reilly expansion, oh no
An appeal made by in house council Robert Greene on behalf of Charlotte Morris of O'Reilly Automotive of Springfield to rubberstamp the planning and zoning's approval recommendation was unanimously voted down with the exception of Mayor Stinnett who abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest. Several residents from the neighborhood surrounding the business spoke in opposition to re-zoning an adjoining vacant property to allow O'Reilly's expansion. They also opposed the creation of a driveway exit on the 14th Street side of the property.
Former Mayor Richard Russell said he was on the council in 1995 when an agreement was struck with O'Reilly officials that prohibited access to 14th Street. Remembering that compromise, Dr. Keith Grebe of 2736 E. 15th St. called any re-zoning a "Pacman approach: nibbling away house by house so that businesses are allowed to encroach into the neighborhood. "Once we give an inch, somebody comes back for more," Grebe said.
Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, a pediatric dentist, voiced his concern that increased traffic from 14th Street to Highview would be detrimental to students walking home from nearby Eastmoreland Elementary School. Darryl Edwards who said he owned property on East 14th Street agreed and said that O'Reilly should locate their intended warehouse elsewhere.
Design study and surveying contracts awarded
Mayor Stinnett wanted to make sure the City was getting "the biggest bang for the buck" in awarding $309,000 to Allgeier Martin & Associates for design studies associated with several drainage projects that include addressing the undersized pipe at 30th and McClelland, ditch improvements near N. Jackson and 32nd Street, south of 20th and Range Line behind Pizza by Stout and west of Range Line at Brownell where water drains under the interstate. Although very little survey work was needed for these improvements, Robert Smith, assistant director of public works, assured the council that he was "comfortable with the quality of work performed by Allgeier Martin" and that their bid included performing "difficult hydrolic calculations." Payment will be made from the $1.8 million that has accumulated this year from the quarter percent sales tax increase approved by the voters for drainage improvement.
The firm of Sprenkle Associates was awarded $97,320 for survey work in widening Maiden Lane from 8th to 32nd St. The total cost of the project to create 5 lanes on what will be an arterial street and sidewalks near the intersection of 32nd Street is $4.3 million with engineering done in-house. The cost will be born by proceeds from a 3/8-cent sales tax approved by voters for 19 projects. Smith wanted the public to know that construction permits for the project wouldn't be issued until 2008-10.
Landowner thinks he's being screwed
Gary Johnson, owner of a used car lot at the intersection of St. Louis and Broadway isn't happy over the City's decision to take 25 feet of his property in order to install traffic signals and a radius for a turning lane. Johnson claims that several years ago when he was establishing his business, he asked the City if he was doing it back far enough. Now he says 25 feet of his business will be taken away.
He asked the Council, "How do you determine the value of three spaces in a car lot?"
Brian Head, legal council for the City, said he believes that the City "negotiated in good faith." With the approval of condemnation proceedings 8-1 with Mayor Russell the only dissenting vote, it now will be up to the court, according to Head's explanation, to select three disinterested property owners to determine the property's value.
There's always the possibility that property will be needed for signal improvements was the comment made by David Hertzberg, director of public works. Hertzberg had assured the Council that his department was following the best option for the intersection's improvements.