By Debby Woodin
A number of large construction projects — including continuation of a $29 million expansion at the Shoal Creek Wastewater Plant, the Public Safety Training Center, walking trails and a slate of stormwater drainage projects — are part of the city of Joplin’s proposed 2014 budget.
The city staff proposed a $258.3 million spending plan Monday night at a public hearing of the City Council. That is believed to be the largest budget the city has ever adopted, because of disaster assistance it has received from the state and federal governments. The council will not take official action on the budget until after it has held work sessions Sept. 24-25 to look at the line items and hear requests.
“The main focus of this budget is the continued provision of daily services to our citizens while at the same time implementing the projects approved as a result of the nearly $200 million in assistance we have received following the May 22, 2011, tornado,” wrote City Manager Mark Rohr in his cover letter for the 413-page document.
“Our main emphasis over the next few years will be the implementation of these projects that should not only help in that recovery, but set the stage for population growth in Joplin,” Rohr wrote.
In previous meetings, council members have recommended that the city hire more people to handle the increased workload of accomplishing the recovery work, sales tax projects and keeping up with the day-to-day operations.
The proposed budget identifies 12 positions Rohr proposes.
One is that of an assistant parks and recreation director, which Rohr says would be funded by an increase in revenue the city expects to be produced in that department from recreation activities. The department also would receive a half year’s funding for a full-time arborist. The city currently has an arborist on loan from the state until April. Rohr said the position is needed to continue a program to replace trees lost in the tornado and to upgrade the landscape in the rest of the city.
Two new jobs in the Public Works Department would be designated to work on the projects the city will pay for with funds from Community Development Block Grants. The salaries would come from money in the grants already designated for administration.
Also proposed are:
• Two more employees to handle sewer billing, a workload that has exceeded original expectations, Rohr said. Those workers would be paid with money from the city’s fees on the bills.
• Two more wastewater plant operators for the expanding wastewater plant. These wages also would come from sewer bill collections.
• An addition of two employees in the stormwater maintenance division to work on upkeep of the system. The jobs would be funded from the parks and stormwater sales tax.
• Combining two part-time jobs into one full-time job at the Joplin Recycling Center, which the city says would result in the center being able to stay open 30 hours a week instead of 20.
• Adding another detention officer at the jail because of increased inmate counts.
“While I recognize there are other personnel needs within the city, I think these are the most critical areas given our limited means to address those requests,” Rohr said.
The budget calls for construction of the $3 million Public Safety Training Center on land the city owns across from the Joplin Regional Airport. That center was pledged as part of the public safety sales tax.
There would be more than $5 million worth of stormwater system repairs and parks projects. Of that, about $1.1 million would be spent to build the Tin Cup Trail as well as a trail from McClelland Boulevard to downtown. The city would spend $1.3 million to build a trail from the low-water bridge over Shoal Creek to Grand Falls.
Street projects include a 20th Street train overpass and designs for a number of street-widening projects, including Zora Street from Main Street to Range Line Road and St. Louis Avenue from Langston Hughes-Broadway to Zora Street.
Among the capital projects proposed at the Joplin Regional Airport are $1.9 million for a taxiway and $1.7 million for a perimeter service road.
THE CITY BUDGET for the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 31, is $143.6 million. Next year’s budget reflects tornado recovery grants including Community Development Block Grant money totaling $158 million.