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Board narrowly approves improvement plan

By Dennis Minich

Despite a bitter political campaign and a major philosophical split on the Harrisonville Board of Alderman, most discussions and votes have been fairly harmonious. That was until Monday, July 1, when a mostly symbolic resolution passed by the narrowest of margins, 4-3.

The resolution was the result of a board work retreat which had been held \May 30. Mayor Judy Bowman and seven members of the board of aldermen  met with city staff and adopted three short-term goals for the city. The goals as outlined in a summary of the meeting were:

1. Create a program for increased code enforcement and to incentivize better property management throughout the city.

2. Hire one dedicated and certified economic development professional to promote the city for economic development opportunities.

3. Create a plan for the immediate, short-term and long-term, to prioritize the city’s infrastructure projects to get those projects designed, scheduled and identify how to fund them.

This month’s resolution simply put goals on the record and were not binding. But Alderman David Dickerson took exception to the plan.

“I don’t support the codes. We don’t need to pay more people to go out and do the job two people can do right now,” Dickerson said. “We went through this several years ago and it was like living in a Nazi concentration camp waiting for the codes people to come around and turn you in for paint peeling or whatever else was hanging on your house.”

He also criticized the plan to hire and economic development director saying the city had had two that brought in a couple of businesses and made $100,000. He said Harrisonville is close enough to the (Kansas City) city that people will know about us and what will bring businesses here is good infrastructure.

Once finished with his remarks, the board voted. Aldermen Marcia Milner, Matt Turner, Dave Doerhoff and Gary Davidson voted in favor of the measure.  Alderman Brad Bockelman, who was the only alderman that did not to attend the work retreat, joined Aldermen Clint Long and Dickerson voting no. Alderman Judy Reece was absent.

Bowman said she felt the work session was been beneficial.

“We met with department heads. It was our plan for everyone to get to know each other better. We met for five hours and had some good feedback. The facilitator had sent out a survey to the board members to know what direction we wanted to go and the priorities came back economic development, appearance of the city and funding for infrastructure.

The board committed to the first step of the infrastructure plan later in the meeting approving a $31,350 rate study on sewer rates. The plan started earlier in the year because money from the water department is being used to subsidize the sewer department. It has also been noted the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is increasing mandates on the sewer plant, which also the oldest structure in the city’s utility systems.

Bowman said the board would advertise the economic developer job in October, with plans to interview in November and make a hire in December, allowing the new employee to start in January. First, the staff must develop a job description and development plan.

According to the meeting summary, staff is going to look at adopting new property codes while looking for ways to incentivize enforcement as well as identifying real problem areas and coming up with solutions.

The board’s infrastructure plan is to come up with immediate needs, things to be completed by March 2020, then short-range plans, things in 2020 to 2022 and long-range plans as far out as 2029.

Later in the week, City Administrator Happy Welch said staff is working on a way to approach the planning.

“I think they (the board) listened to city staff and want to address the infrastructure needs, whether they are immediate, five years or 10 years. We need to prioritize and determine how to pay for the various projects, but the sewer plant is obviously the first priority. We just have to figure out how to make it work and see what happens,” he said.

Welch said the change in direction on policy issues is not a major concern.

“There is a different board with a different set of priorities so we are going to have to make some changes. But it is only natural that things will change,” he said.

The only other piece of business for the board at the meeting was lifting an administrative suspension regarding working with potential marijuana businesses. The board had placed a suspension in March while staff waited to learn state plans for such businesses. Roger Kroh, city planner, told the board since the city had adopted regulations at the June meeting, it was time to lift the suspension so the city could start working with potential developers.

Prior to the meeting, the board held a work session. Among the topics, which will come up for votes in the future, were a plan by Love the Square to construct a public gathering spot on the parking lot at the intersection of Lexington and Pearl streets, plans for no parking on Bird Avenue and changing the city’s burn regulations.

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