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Mayor comments on ‘State of City’

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Jackson voters returned all the incumbents to their positions on the Board of Aldermen in the April 6 election. The Board accepted the election results at its meeting April 19, and City Clerk Liza Walker administered the oath of office to four aldermen and the mayor.

Mayor Dwain Hahs, who ran unopposed in the election, commented on the “State of the City of Jackson” as he began his third term.

“During the last six years that I’ve been mayor, the Board of Aldermen and the City staff have accomplished a lot, continuing our history of growth and expansion in the city,” Hahs said.

“We’ve completed and opened the Civic Center, and purchased the land around the Civic Center for additional park land. As part of this agreement, the Jackson School District received the Jackson baseball stadium and additional land as well,” Hahs said.

In partnership with Jackson R-2, the baseball field and girls soccer field were upgraded as well.

Other improvements include:

• The trail system was expanded.

• A new walking bridge replaced the old one in City Park.

• A water bond issue was passed in 2015, and the City is now in the final years of improvements and expansion funded by those bonds.

• Last year, the City reduced electric rates to its customers by 10 to 15 percent.

• Two roadway roundabouts were completed.

• The intersection at Oak Hill and East Main Street received traffic lights.

• The Southeast Missouri State University farm was purchased in partnership with a private developer, and it is being prepared for future development.

• A “major partnership” was created with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce to bring retail expansion to the City, along with the sales tax revenue that will be generated.

• A full-time retail director was hired and more than 60 new brick-and-mortar businesses have been added.

• Uptown Jackson has seen a major revitalization with many new businesses and expanding events.

• The public safety sales tax was passed in 2018, enabling the hiring of more police and fire personnel and the purchase of new equipment, plus providing the costs of operating the new police station, which was constructed using surplus City funds.

• City jail and dispatch operations were combined with the County, saving capital and operating costs.

• Population has grown to 15,000, and hundreds of new residences have been constructed.

Looking forward, Hahs said retail development is still a high priority. A regional consultant has been hired to help develop the property around the I-55 interchanges in Jackson.

The JIDC spec building purchase will bring additional industrial partners and job opportunities to Jackson. The City will continue to work with JIDC and Cape Area MAGNET to bring new businesses here.

The City will continue to improve its infrastructure.

“The next major strategic project will be the wastewater facilities upgrade and expansion,” Hahs said. “This multi-year project will require a bond issue vote before proceeding.”

Fire Station No. 1 will be renovated, now that the police department has moved out.

There are plans for a dog park and a new Civic Center sign.

Improvements to Jackson roadways include plans to improve the intersections at Donna Drive and East Jackson Boulevard, and Deer-wood and U.S. Hwy. 61 North.

There are also plans to replace the two low-water bridges over Hubble Creek in City Park.

“The completion of the Circle Fiber optic project through Jackson will be a major technological advancement for our city,” added Hahs.

“I believe an annexation strategy is also an important priority for the coming years. The City should have a coherent strategy that outlines what our plans are for the growth of our city boundaries,” Hahs said.

“The City is in excellent financial position,” Hahs said regarding the financial health of Jackson. Currently, the City has $40 million in surplus, and $9 million in debt. Some of the surplus — $28 million — is restricted for specific uses such as utilities and transportation; however, $12 million is unrestricted and can be used for major projects or can be held in reserve.

The COVID rescue package from the federal government will provide Jackson an estimated $2.7 million. The Board of Aldermen will consider the best use of those funds, which must be spent by the end of 2024.

“The City of Jackson is doing very well,” summed up Hahs. “But as a friend of mine reminds me, and reminds those in his organization, ‘We can always do better.’ ”

In other action

• Water system: The Board approved a change order to Jokerst, Inc. of Ste. Genevieve, regarding the Water System Facility Plan Implementation Project, Phase 2, Project 2B.

• Quit-claim deed of release: The Board approved a quit-claim deed of release to the Altenthal-Joerns Post 158 of the American Legion regarding its parking lot.

• Public hearings set: The Board set three public hearings for 6 p.m. Monday, May 17.

The first regards an amendment to Chapter 65, Section 65-30(1) of the Code of Ordinances relative to application fees for rezoning, special use permits and variances, as submitted by the City of Jackson.

The second is regarding an amendment to Chapter 65, Section 28(1) of the Code of Ordinances to add term lengths for members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, as submitted by the City of Jackson.

The third is to consider a special use permit for a 160 square foot oversized attached sign and a 108 square foot oversized monument sign in a C-2 (general commercial) district at 2130 E. Jackson Blvd., as requested by Saint Francis Medical Center.

• Rezoning: The aldermen brought from the table a request to rezone a 3.93-acre tract on the west side of Old Orchard Road from R-2 (single residential) to R-3 (one- and two-family residential) by Mastercraft Development, LLC. The Board approved the request 6-2 with Aldermen Young and Baker opposed.

• Concessions: The Board approved a memorandum of understanding with Rockhill & Sons of Jackson, relative to the 2020 and 2021 park concession stand operations. The requirement of a minimum payment was removed, because COVID-19 has negatively impacted concession sales.

• Picnic Around the Square: The Board was informed during study session about the Uptown Merchants’ plans to hold a “Picnic Around the Square” Thursday evening, May 6. There is a request to temporarily close High Street at the intersections of Adams and Main streets for the event. Food trucks will be available and stores will be open late. The merchants would like to plan an event once a month on Thursday evenings.

• Pickleball: A local group, the SEMO Pickleball Group, has plans to upgrade and expand the pickleball facilities at Litz Park. There will be eight resurfaced courts that will allow for tournaments to be held here. The estimated cost for the new blacktop is $43,436. A new acrylic surface will cost an additional $15,000. In Phase 2, additional fencing will be added at a cost of $15,000-$20,000.

So far, the group has collected $27,000 and has commitments for another $25,000, for a total of $52,000. The group needs an additional $6,000 to start Phase 1.

The aldermen liked the idea and agreed to accept the donation. The project will need to be bid out when the time comes.

• Park updates: Construction is continuing on the new restrooms and renovations to the band shell in City Park.

The City is receiving a donation to install a concrete stage in the rock garden to make it easier to hold concerts there or to use it for other events such as weddings.

• Sewers: The Board was updated on the North Union Avenue Lift Station and Force Main Upgrade Project. A task order for the $12,340 project will come before the Board at its next meeting.

• Business licenses: The Board will consider simplifying the process of business licensing by revising Chapter 37 of the Code of Ordinances.

“The business license section of the code is pretty antiquated,” said City Attorney Tom Ludwig. Portions go back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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