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Council hears demo plan and more

By early next week the landscape in the downtown area will have changed again. The old brick building at the corner of Columbia and Henry streets is set to be demolished on Monday.

During last week’s city council meeting City Administrator Greg Beavers announced the busy intersection will be shut down for a time while the main portion of the building is knocked down. Developer Brett Burgess intends to demolish the old structure and build a new multi-story building to house retail, service and possible residential space. 

The council gave approval in April to use Tax Increment Financing funds to help pay for the demolition of the building. There has been ongoing concern about the safety of the building for the past few years. 

The previous owner purchased the structure as an investment and intended to rehab the interior and exterior. That owner would later tell the city that the initial plan was not financially feasible.

Burgess said he will use TIF funds to demolish the building, and private funding to build the new structure. He said utilizing the TIF money will help keep over all costs down to allow the project to “cash flow”. Potential revenue for downtown projects are limited to some degree based on the square footage available for leasable space, and the limited parking area.

While the exact scope of Burgess’ project is unknown at this time, the city hopes to boost tourism in coming months and years to help every business in the community.

Council members also discussed tourism marketing during Thursday night’s meeting. It’s hoped a promotional package will be in place by June using the recently-passed transient tax on all “overnight stay” rooms in the city.

The city administrator said it’s hoped a package of advertising including St. Louis-area media – television, print, radio and Internet – will be in play by mid-summer. Summer Bay Marketing, a division of area entrepreneur Joe Scott’s business holdings, has agreed to offer its services as a media buyer to put together the most cost-efficient advertising package possible for the city.

Also during the council meeting, reports were given on several ongoing improvement projects. The new firehouse now has its brick exterior and is on track to be completed earlier than expected. Work is progressing on paving of the apron and parallel taxiway at the regional airport. And the east wastewater treatment plant expansion is nearly finished.

It was also reported that some cost-share and state- and federally funded projects are also on the calendar. The fire department received government funding to purchase a mobile foam transport and application system to use in the instance of chemical or jet fuel fires. Fire chief Todd Mecey said there is no other comparable system in the region, with the closest being Lambert Airport in St. Louis. The system could be used at the airport, but could also be effective in the case of a chemical spill or industrial plant accident.

The fire department will also be purchasing new “breathing apparatus” equipment to provide firemen portable oxygen. The department’s existing equipment is quickly becoming outdated, and new technology has made use of the equipment much safer. However, the city’s equipment was too old to qualify for a partial reimbursement plan when upgrading to the newer systems. 

But Mecey reported that he had negotiated to trade in the existing equipment for a newer model at a fraction of the cost of the regular retail price. The department will pay $32,500 and trade in its current equipment for brand new systems.

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