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Council supports county-wide sales tax

The Park Hills Council on Tuesday agreed to support a quarter-cent, county-wide sales tax proposal that would appear on the April 5 ballot.

If passed, the sales tax would pay for road improvements throughout the county. Eighty percent of the proceeds would be used to entice Missouri Department of Transportation to speed up work on six state road projects. The remaining 20 percent would be used on county and city road projects. Officials have not determined how the money would be shared locally.

Council members were upset to hear that the state has removed from its list of projects a plan to improve the intersection of U.S. 67 and the entrance to St. Francois County Fairgrounds.

“As far as we know, the fairgrounds (intersection) has not reappeared on the statewide transportation plan,” Assistant City Administrator Norm Lucas said.

The county needs to make an effort to speed up state road work in the area, and sales tax receipts would do that, City Administrator John Kennedy said.

“MoDOT has said the projects that will get the most attention are the ones that have matching funds attached to them,” he told the council.

Officials from St. Francois County and the cities of Bonne Terre, Desloge, Park Hills, Leadington, Bismarck, and Farmington met for several months to discuss economic development issues. The officials compiled a list of six priority projects in the county to be addressed by the state. That list, in order of importance begins with the need for safety improvements and congestion relief at the U.S. 67 entrances into the fairgrounds, Red Rooster Road, Busenbark Road, and Hunt Road. The daily traffic count of 34,847, as well as the “conflicting traffic movements at the at-grade crossovers” create hazards to both life and property, according to the officials’ list of transportation needs.

The second need is for safety improvements at the Orchard access to U.S. 67. That hazard stems from conflicting traffic movements and peculiar sight lights that reduce visibility for traffic on U.S. 67, approaching the crossing.

Congestion relief is needed along U.S. 67 “in part from inadequate and nonexistent outer road at various points, including Vo-Tech School Road bridge and stretches on the east side of the highway,” the officials contend.

The fourth priority is the need for safety improvements on State Road K from U.S. 67 to Bonne Terre Correctional Center. Dangerous grades and sight distances create hazards in that area.

The group also cited a need for safety improvements and congestion relief on Route V from Iron County to Route W. The problem there stems from dangerous grades and sight distances, in conjunction with narrow or nonexistent shoulders.

The last area identified by the officials as needing improvement is the intersection of Highway 8 and Route P. Sight distances and the “intersection geometry” pose dangers at that intersection.

Approval of a sales tax proposal in April would speed up these improvements because the county could then promise to pay for part of the construction costs.

Tuesday was the first official monthly meeting for Walter Parish of Ward 2. The council on Jan. 20 approved Parish’s appointment to fill the unexpired term of former Councilman Ricky Gray until the April election.

The council, in a 7-0 vote, approved several measures on the agenda. Ward 2 Councilwoman Linda Dickerson did not attend the meeting due to the illness of her child.

City council members agreed to annex surplus properties left over from state construction. The Missouri Department of Transportation deeded surplus portions of right-of-way to the city. The properties had been set aside for construction of the second extension of the Highway 32 bypass and construction of the parkway Drive Interchange, but were not used.

Councilmen also agreed to

€ Vacate portions of North Shaw Street as well as unopened streets and unimproved alleys in the Arthur Dix subdivision.

€ Reclassify property at 1506 Jennings Road from R-1 (residential) to C-1 (general commercial) usage.

€ Pass a resolution that set a March 8 hearing on annexation of Bonne Terre Columbus Home Company property adjacent to Conway Road.

€ Set a hearing for a March 8 hearing on annexation of Missouri Highway and Transportation Department right-of-way holdings near U.S. 67 and Highway 32.

€ Establish an ordinance that establishes the installation of a stop sign at the intersection of Vine Street and Business Route 32. Although a stop sign is there, the city had no ordinance requiring it.

€ Return to the previous method of approval for voluntary firefighters to include interviews by the police and fire chiefs and final approval from the city administrator.

€ Accept Drew Wheatley’s bid to run the concession stand at Park Hills Sports Complex during the 2005 season. Wheatley’s bid was $3,200 per year. He also agreed to provide concessions for the soccer season if enough groups participate to make it financially feasible.

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