Colorful slides, swings and other children’s playground equipment are once again filled with the sounds of laughter and the flash of activity.
Jackson Parks Director Shane Anderson appeared before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Monday night, June 15, to recommend that playgrounds and basketball courts be reopened for public use. They have been closed since April 4 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The governor lifted all statewide restrictions June 15 as the state moved into Phase 2 of reopening. Many municipalities are also lifting their COVID-19 restrictions. Social distancing is still recommended.
“This morning I had a conversation with the Cape County Public Health Department staff, and based on that conversation about moving into Phase 2 — where we are now — I’m going to submit a recommendation that we open up the playgrounds and basketball courts,” Anderson told the Board Monday night.
“We’ll have signage that recommends social distancing, [and we’ll] sanitize before and after play,” he added.
Anderson said the emphasis is being put on people taking personal responsibility for their health. “At the same time, we feel like it’s time to open up things like playgrounds and basketball courts. Those are the last two facilities that we have closed down. I want to recommend that we open them up.” The Board did not vote on the matter officially but gave an unofficial head nod to proceed.
Anderson checked with City Administrator Jim Roach again Tuesday morning, June 16, and received the green light to remove the police tape and reopen the playgrounds and basketball courts for public use.
The Municipal Pool opened June 8. Attendance has been about 100 each day.
On Monday night, June 15, baseball and softball games resumed on city diamonds.
The Civic Center was operating at a 25 percent capacity to keep crowds down and allow for social distancing. It has now returned to accepting regular capacity for its rentals.
About 200 people attended the Rockin’ the Rock Garden concert the previous Friday night. The audience practiced social distancing.
July 4 festivities are still planned but mud volleyball, the beer garden, helicopter rides and golf ball drop have been cancelled. During the day, there will be a large cruise-in car show along Sycamore Lane and food vendors. The day will conclude with a 7 p.m. band concert and 9:30 fireworks show.
• Parking lot: A public hearing was held regarding the County’s request for a special use permit to expand an existing parking lot at 219 N. Missouri St. Ryan Roth of Koehler Engineering said the County Commissioners wished to expand the parking near the new County Courthouse. It would be gravel at first but would eventually be paved. No one else from the public spoke. The Board approved the special use permit later in the meeting.
• Election: The Board accepted the certified results of the April 7 election. Later in the meeting, the oath of office was administered to aldermen who were re-elected (see photo on page 3). The Board then approved appointments to various boards and committees.
• Disposal of records: The Board approved the disposal of records that met their retention life according to Missouri statutes.
• Utility rates: The Boardofficially accepted the 2020 Electric Utility Rate Study Update that was presented in study session June 1. The study recommended an average reduction in utility rates of 11.5 percent. That rate reduction was also approved. The new rates will be effective July 1. (For more details, see the June 10 issue of The CBJ).
City Administrator Jim Roach recommended that the City return to normal operations regarding late fees and utility cut-offs. For the past three months, the City has waived utility cut-offs for nonpayment to help those financially hurt by COVID-19.
The Board gave Roach an unofficial okay to go back to normal operations.
• Water leak detection: The Board renewed a $4,000 annual contract with Westrum Leak Detection of Stratford, IA, for its water system computerized leak detection survey program.
• On-street parking: The Board amended the Parking Prohibited Schedule by repealing and adding designations on South Missouri Street at the new Jackson Police Station and repealing one on South Barton Street at the County Administrative Building.
During study session, the Board discussed the need for two-hour parking on North Missouri Street to prevent courthouse employees (and jurors once jury trials resume) from parking on the street and taking spots needed for local businesses.
Affected property owners will be notified and will have an opportunity to address the Board in a future study session.
• Crosswalk: The Board approved the addition of a crosswalk on Parkview Street.
• COVID-19 update: Fire Chief Jason Mouser updated the Board on the pandemic. “We’re getting back to normal, as far as city operations [go],” he said.
• Hwy. 61 N: Andy Meyer from the Missouri Department of Transportation spoke in study session regarding two issues involving Highway 61 North.
Many years after the roundabout at Main Street has been completed, there are still some unresolved costs to the project. The City had agreed to split the costs 50/50 with MoDOT. But there were some engineering overages for which MoDOT did not feel right charging the City its 50 percent. Instead, the City will be charged 42.4 percent of the overage. Instead of paying $279,055.46, the City’s portion will be $151, 196.31.
MoDOT recently did a mill and fill resurfacing of some of Highway 61 North between the roundabout and Fruitland. But the concrete under the overlay is broken and is moving around, causing an uneven surface. Heavy truck traffic using Highway 61 as a detour because of the diverging diamond intersection at Center Junction is exacerbating the problem.
MoDOT plans to do some temporary road repairs on Highway 61 North by cutting out bad spots and filling with concrete. This work will be done during nights at the end of July or early August. More permanent repairs will be made after the Center Junction project is completed.
Meanwhile, the work at Center Junction is roughly 10 percent ahead of schedule. Completion of the new Southbound I-55 bridge is expected to occur around November.
• MDC agreement: Shane Anderson updated the Board on an agreement between the City and the Missouri Department of Conservation regarding Rotary Lake and the pond in Litz Park. The agreement has been “nothing but good for the city,” Anderson said.
• North Farmington: During study session, City Engineer Clint Brown said when North Farmington Road is resurfaced, it could be done two ways. It could be completely closed (local traffic only) for 1-1/2 or two weeks for each of two sections of roadway, or one lane of through traffic could be kept open, but the construction would then take more time.
The Board recommended complete closure and getting the work done before school starts.
• New traffic signal: Mouser said when Fire Station No. 2 was built on Old Orchard Road, a conduit was laid under the road to add a traffic signal at a later date. Now with the closure of the southbound I-55 ramp at Center Junction, Old Orchard Road is seeing more traffic, and it is dangerous for the fire engines to leave the station in emergencies. He recommended that a traffic light be installed. It would be activated only when fire trucks leave the station. A traffic signal will cost less than $10,000.
• 9/11 memorial: Mouser said work is progressing on the 9/11 memorial in front of Fire Station 1. The Pentagon of brick pavers is completed and Liley Monuments has checked the site where the towers will be erected. Fund-raisers have raised $40,000 so far, but another $12,000 is still needed.
• City App: Mayor Dwain Hahs said 83 people have been testing a new City of Jackson app. He said he is not ready to make a recommendation. He recommended that people continue to try the app for another six months to see if this is the app the City wants to purchase.
• Roundabout: The Board of Aldermen discussed again in study session the size of signs that should be allowed in the new roundabout at Shawnee and East Main Street. Montgomery Bank has adopted that roundabout and will install a 25-foot flagpole and do landscaping at a cost of $13,000.