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Dave Christensen speaks

Cochran Engineering Vice President Dave Christensen speaks to Bonne Terre residents about Community Development Block grant projects. 

About 15 residents attended a public hearing at Bonne Terre City Hall Monday night prior to the regular monthly council meeting. 

The hearing was on Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), presented by Cochran Engineering Vice President Dave Christensen.

To apply for a CDBG by May 31, the city needed to have a public hearing on how to allocate grants. 

“This is to prove that this is something you guys want, and that it’s not just [City Administrator Shawn Kay’s] and my idea,” Christensen said.

He said the reason Bonne Terre was eligible for the program now, but wasn’t before, was because it had just reached the requirements in April for “low to moderate income,” or “LMI,” and that it was now at least at 51 percent.

“Desloge is not eligible. Park Hills is not eligible. Farmington is not eligible. Fredericktown is not eligible. Leadwood is,” Christensen said, to highlight the unique opportunity that Bonne Terre had before them.

“We can get a grant for up to $500,000 for numerous things,” he said. “This application is due May 31, and the category is general infrastructure. We can apply for $500,000 every year, but the project has to be different each year. In other words, if we applied for resurfacing this year, we wouldn’t be able to apply for resurfacing next year."

“The plan is to pick a new project each year,” he said. “They should take about two years to complete, which is a lot shorter than usual for projects.”

Some of the criteria were that the City of Bonne Terre had to put in local funding towards the project, and that it had to affect a wide enough amount of people. With residents approving the property tax this month, the city will now have additional revenue for matching grants. 

He displayed a slideshow of suggestions they had for the first year of the grants.

Even though the roads, sidewalks and curbs were noted by him to be in bad shape, “Typically what you would do is you would fix underneath before you would fix what’s on the surface.”

“Let’s look at the drainage structures and bridge, and the city, and get those fixed this year, then apply next year for sidewalks, curbs, resurfacing, whatever it is what you guys want to do,” he said.

Christensen showed photos of four different suggestions from the city, including culverts and bridges that would use up the money from the grant for the first year.

The first one was a damaged culvert on Turkey Creek Road. The second, a bridge on Oak Street, had only a 6-ton weight limit, far below what he would recommend. The culvert under Buchanan Street was in bad shape, and the culvert under North Allen by the Fire Department was also in bad shape.

Each resident in the room from Bonne Terre received a survey, where they assessed on a list the quality of infrastructure, services, facilities and other community needs that should take the highest priority.

Even though the application for the grants only required one survey to be collectively be filled out, Kay volunteered the individuals in the room to fill it out how they wanted it because he wanted to use the information for the next project.

The audience mostly decided that drainage and sidewalks were in poor condition.

“Every time it rains, water’s all over,” a member of the audience said about the category for “storm sewer collection.”

An audience member made a comment about the sidewalks.

“You are very poor in this town when it comes to providing for the handicapped,” she said.

In just a short walk, she said, “there were double curbs — where you had to go up one curb and then another — and there are triple curbs. There are curbs that are broken. You see people in travel chairs and wheel chairs walking down the street because [the sidewalks] are so poor.”

Kay said that they would address those going forward, and Cochran assured her that the sidewalks that would be done in the future would be ADA (Amercians with Disabilities Act) compliant.

When they reached the survey section about parking, a resident asked Police Chief Doug Calvert if he could tow cars that were parked outside the street instead of parking lots. He said places where they couldn’t get police cars or fire trucks through would take priority in that instance.

The next list on the community needs assessment asked about the health environment, with citizens reporting on the supply or lack of primary care physicians, health care specialists, home care services, dentists and youth/elderly services.

At the end of the list, the group compiled their top five concerns. In first place was drainage, which would be worked on this year at the recommendation of Kay and Cochran. The rest of the list would be prioritized for the coming years, which would also need another public hearing to help decide upon.

“From what I’m hearing, these folks want sidewalks,” Kay said. Concerns were also raised about streetlights and curbs, and which sidewalks would be affected by the grants.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic that this will go through," said Christensen, about the imminent application for the grants.

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Matthew Morey is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3617, or at mmorey@dailyjournalonline.com.

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