The Jackson Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program and a new sidewalk/trail on East Main Street between Bellevue Street and Shawnee Boulevard will be early beneficiaries of Jackson’s American Rescue Plan funds.
Jackson is expected to receive a total of $2.9 million in federal ARP funds. The City must commit those funds to projects by 2024 and spend the funds between 2022 and 2026.
During a study session at the June 6 Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Dwain Hahs said these federal funds will be spent for projects that are “transformational” for the City and would be difficult for the City to accomplish using its own funds.
The selected projects must “make a major difference” but not produce ongoing expenses that would have to come out of the city’s pockets when the ARP funds run out.
ARP funds will be used for economic development in the City and for improvement of the quality of life for its citizens.
At the June 20 meeting, the Board of Aldermen is expected to approve giving $110,000 of ARP money to the Meals on Wheels program at the Jackson Senior Center.
Another $500,000 is being set aside to build a new sidewalk on East Main Street between Bellevue and the roundabout at Shawnee Boulevard. Sidewalks currently exist east of Shawnee and west of Bellevue, but this section of East Main Street has no sidewalks, forcing walkers, runners and joggers to move into the street.
City Engineer Anna Bergmark called this missing section of sidewalk “a critical missing piece.”
The City plans to apply for a matching grant to help pay for the new sidewalk, which would cut down the city’s share of the cost.
Rather than a standard 6-foot wide sidewalk, which would cost about $450,000 to build, the City plans to build an 8-foot-wide “shared use trail” that would serve as a sidewalk and a bicycle trail, for $525,000.
By offering to match the grant’s funds at 35 percent of the total (this would cost the City about $200,000), the City of Jackson (if the grant is approved) will get an 8-foot wide mixed-use trail for less than half the cost of building a 6-foot sidewalk (the grant cannot be used for a regular sidewalk).
Eventually this sidewalk/trail will connect to a sidewalk/trail in Cape and become part of a North Jackson-Cape Trail.
Several aldermen expressed an interest in pursuing the project, especially with the grant. Mayor Hahs suggested that City staff proceed with engineering work, because “we’re going to do this anyway,” he said, either with or without the grant, using ARP funds.
Other projects expected to be completed using ARP funds are a renovation of the fountain in front of the old county courthouse, adding street lights to East Jackson Boulevard between I-55 and Walmart, Jackson Community Outreach Board events and a tourism office.
In other action
• Audit: The City received an “unmodified” or “clean opinion” of its financial statements in the annual audit report presented to the aldermen by Jeffrey Stroder of Beussink, Hey, Roe and Stroder, LLC, of Jackson. No deficiencies were found in the design or operation of the city’s internal controls. There were no incidents of noncompliance with federal regulations. No significant adjustments were recommended.
The audit was accepted by the aldermen.
• Water supply wells: The $7,735.50 proposal of CK Power of St. Louis was accepted for providing services under the Generator Services Program for water well No. 4 at 580 N. Union Ave. A contract with the company was authorized.
A proposal for the same amount with the same company was accepted for services on water supply well No. 6 at 1149 Nell Green St. A contract was authorized.
• Meeting date change: The Monday, July 4 meeting of the Board of Aldermen was moved to Tuesday, July 5, at 6 p.m., in observance of Independence Day.
• Liquor license: The aldermen authorized the sale of intoxicating liquor, malt liquor (beer) and nonintoxicating beer at the BackStoppers Backyard BBQ Fundraising Event, to be held at Pavilion No. 1 on Parkview Street in Jackson City Park on Saturday, Oct. 1, as requested by Marc Ashby.
• Wastewater bond issue: The aldermen approved a $10,163 proposal of BOLD Marketing to help educate the public about the upcoming wastewater bond issue request that the City is putting on the Aug. 2 ballot. A contract was authorized.
• City park mowing: Additional mowing services for Jackson City Park were approved. A contract was authorized with Bootheel Exteriors, LLC, of Bertrand in the amount of $750 per mowing event.
• Circle Fiber: Kevin Cantwell, president of Big River Communications, updated the Board of Aldermen on the progress of Circle Fiber’s installation of optic fiber in the city.
“You are now in the top 10% of all cities in the United States on having access to the fastest Internet that’s available” he said. “What does that mean? Population.” Without fast Internet, “You see a lot of kids come back to town [only] to leave [again] because they don’t have access to this type of technology.” With fast Internet, “The population can grow, attracting businesses, allowing people now to have access to telemedicine, [and] promote learning.”
Three of the first 10 customers to sign up with Circle Fiber worked for companies based in Dallas, TX, and St. Louis, but they lived in Jackson. Although Dallas and St. Louis claim them as employees, they spend their paychecks in Jackson, Cantwell said. “That’s called a shadow economy; people wanting to get out of those bigger cities and come and live in an environment like this but still work. Having access to fiber helps accelerate that.”
Even if residents are not customers of Circle Fiber, they win, because the competition has lowered its Internet prices, Cantwell added.
Big River has not accepted any city, state or federal (including COVID-relief) funds to bring fiber to this area. The project is funded by the company’s investors.
Circle Fiber’s installation of fiber been focused on three cities in Southeast Missouri. Jackson was “built out” first. Fiber is currently being laid in Cape. “I’ll turn Poplar Bluff on probably within the next 45 days,” Cantwell said.
Circle Fiber recently signed a lease for business space in Jackson at 431 W. Main St. “We’ll open up a retail location there, but the retail location is more educational than it is retail,” Cant-well said.
As fiber rolled out, some people understood its power and signed up right away. A second group were like the “Mikey” Life cereal commercials. They saw their neighbors sign up and like it before deciding to try it themselves.
Now, people are needing to be educated about fiber, Cantwell said. He said the greatest sales and marketing book is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. The main character insists he doesn’t like green eggs and ham until he tries them. “Once people try it, ‘I do, I do, I do like fiber,’” Cantwell said.
Jackson’s response has been higher than expected. “Our initial release was overwhelming,” he said. “The acceptance has been tremendous here in Jackson.” So many customers signed up that installation has taken longer than expected. “We’ve about caught up with that. The final installation should be done on the first phase. As work is completed, all of Jackson will have access to fiber and its high-speed Internet access.
Mayor Hahs reminded Cantwell that Uptown Jackson has plans to offer free Wi-Fi to people visiting that area. Cantwell said discussions are ongoing as to what type of equipment is needed and who will manage it.
• City phone system & Internet: Joan Evans, director of information technology for the City of Jackson, informed the Board of Aldermen that Big River/Circle Fiber was the only respondent as the City sought a request for qualifications to upgrade the city’s telephone and Internet services. Big River has had a relationship with the City since 2011, and she recommended that the City work out an agreement with Big River/Circle Fiber to go forward.
• I-55 substation: Don Schuette, director of electric utilities, announced the bid tabulation for the I-55 electric substation and transmission line projects.
There are two parts to this project; one is for the materials and labor to finish the building of the substation and the other bid is for the transmission line interconnection, including poles, foundations, line work and required materials.
It was recommended that the City accept the low bid price of $1.433 million from Power Grid Company for the labor and materials at the I-55 substation and the low bid price of $1,310,960.84 from Power Line Consultants, LLC, for the labor and materials for utility poles and foundations.
Although the entire project will total about $2.75 million to complete, Schuette said this is about $500,000 less than the project was estimated to cost.
• Walk Jackson: Bergmark updated the aldermen on the Walk Jackson! Program. Last week, the City was in week four of 13 in the program and celebrated the city’s water utility department. Eighteen T-shirts and three water bottles have been given out as prizes in the program, which is being conducted mostly on social media.