By Susan Redden
The Joplin City Council on Monday night endorsed a plan to ensure that mobile home parks set up in the wake of the May 2011 tornado are empty by the June 7 federal deadline.
There are 32 mobile homes still occupied out of the 586 that were brought to Joplin by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the tornado, according to Troy Bolander, city planning and community development director.
He said most of those remaining families have plans to move from the trailers, which are located in private parks and in the complex established on city-owned property south of the Joplin Regional Airport.
“As of this morning, 554 have moved and 21 have plans for housing,” Bolander said. “But there are 11 families that have not been able to get approval for permanent housing.”
Bolander and Heather Bradley-Geary, of the Missouri Housing Development Commission, outlined a plan under which FEMA will donate the mobile homes occupied by the 11 families. The trailers would be moved to privately owned mobile home parks, and Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri will work with the families for the next year to help them make a transition into permanent housing.
The proposal calls for the city’s disaster action plan to be amended to allocate $60,000 in Community Development block grant funds to pay for moving the trailers.
“We don’t think it will cost that much, and any money not spent will go back to the original fund,” Bolander said.
“I just want us out of there by the deadline,” said Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg.
“I think staff ought to be commended for an effort that has gotten us this far,” added Councilman Mike Seibert.
The council endorsed the proposal in its informal session.
Also in the session, members approved a recommendation from Chris Cotten, city parks director, for the demolition of bleachers and other structures at Bassman Field in Landreth Park. Cotten noted the city’s parks master plan said the future of the old field would have to be addressed with the completion of the new Joplin Sports Complex.
“It needs a lot of structural work if we’re going to maintain it,” he said. “The fences and bleachers are in bad shape; there are some serious safety issues there.”
He said the city still rents the field for practices, with games played at the sports complex.
He said he would propose maintaining the green space and perimeter fencing for a practice area, but taking out most of the structural elements that have deteriorated over time. Eventually, he said lights at the field also will have to be taken out.
Councilman Gary Shaw cast the lone dissenting vote on the proposal, adding “I hate to see it go.”
In action during the council’s regular session, the panel approved an agreement with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. for underwriting services by the firm to issue net proceeds of $13 million in tax increment financing bonds. The agreement will cover bonds for what is described as the largest TIF district in Missouri history. The city’s contracted master developer firm, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, will recommend a first issuance of bonds to net $13 million for land acquisition for proposed projects in connection with recovery from the 2011 tornado.
In other action Monday, the council approved measures to:
• A property lease from the Missouri Department of Transportation to install an outdoor storm-warning siren at the Joplin Welcome Center on Interstate 44.
• Set pool admission fees for the season. The proposal raises rates at the new Schifferdecker pool from 75 cents and $1 to $4 for children and $5 for adults. Council member Trisha Rainey cast the lone dissenting vote.
• Contract with Motorola Inc. for support and maintenance of the city’s digital radio system for the next year at a cost of $125,535.
• OK a site plan for Nixon’s Garage in a planned commercial development on the east side of St. Louis Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. Councilman Bill Scearce abstained, citing a business relationship with the property owner. Scearce presided at the meeting in the absence of Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean.
COUNCIL MEMBERS set a work session for 5:45 p.m. Monday, April 8, to discuss putting a curbside recycling proposal on the August election ballot.