By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Cookie Estrada told the Joplin City Council on Monday night that he finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
He wants to support the proposed $40 million Joplin Commons project that is part of a $130 million tornado recovery plan. But, as the chief executive officer of the Joplin Family YMCA, he has to protect the mission and interests of the 125-year-old Joplin institution he runs. That’s why he asked the city to work with the Y and try to incorporate its future into Joplin’s plan.
The Joplin Commons would be a duplication of the services that the Y offers in Joplin as far as fitness and recreation.
“We have to look at that duplication hoping to find a niche to work together so that it doesn’t harm the organizations” like the Y and any others that may be affected by the idea, Estrada told the council. “I’m here to support the Commons, but you have to take care of those entities that have been here for a long time. Collaboration is the key.”
The recovery plan would be funded in large part by $113 million in federal grant money. A public hearing was conducted Monday night on the initial proposal for spending that money, which includes the Joplin Commons. The Commons would include an indoor pool suitable for competition swimming, a fitness center, a senior citizens center, indoor quarters for basketball, volleyball and soccer suitable for tournament play, a Little League complex, and a skate park.
“We have had three meetings with the Y to discuss concerns and how it relates to their plan,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. Those city staff discussions with the Y have included the question of whether there is a way to collaborate on the Commons project. Rohr said the project addresses all needs and wants of the community that have been expressed at a number of public meetings. He said that while he knows that a fitness center would compete with the Y, it is needed to generate revenue to subsidize the indoor pool operations.
“I think there is a possibility that we serve different markets,” Rohr said.
Councilman Jack Golden said he has worked with the Y for years, and that the city continues to need such operations.
Councilman Mike Woolston asked that if the council agreed to move forward with submitting the plan to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocated the grant money, there would be a chance to address concerns of groups such as the Y and the Little League.
Council members also spoke about receiving a groundswell of public opposition to a proposal to reconfigure part of East 20th Street into fewer and narrower traffic lanes in order to do streetscaping. Part of the grant money is proposed for construction of that project.
Rohr said at this point the city is presenting a concept, and details of that concept are still to be developed.
City Planner Troy Bolander said a final report on the public input regarding the 20th Street project would be available in September, and that residents are clear that they do not want the traffic capacity of the street reduced.
In other business, about 20 residents of a neighborhood near the old Joplin Stockyards property on Newman Road opposed or expressed concerns about rezoning part of that land for construction of apartments.
The developer, in response, told the council that he had redrawn the plans to ensure that a buffer of trees and natural growth 40 feet wide would remain between the apartment buildings and the single-family homes south of the property.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce won an agreement to change the zoning to multifamily residential rather than commercial and to make it a planned district so that building plans would have to be approved by the city in order to protect the neighborhood buffer.
The council approved the sale of $13 million in bonds from the new tax increment financing district created for tornado recovery. Leslie Haase, the city finance director, said $5 million of that would be used to pay the city’s matching share for the construction of a new Joplin Public Library project at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue. The bonds also would repay an $8 million loan obtained for the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to buy land for some of the projects, including the library, advanced by the contracted master developer.
The council also:
• Approved rezoning and the vacation of Old Main Street Road at 32nd Street for construction of a new CVS Pharmacy.
• Agreed to vacate old plats for 34th Street and Wisconsin Avenue in the Park Plaza Mobile Home Estates.
• Gave informal consent to proceed with the possibility of putting a sales use tax on the November ballot to replace a city sales tax that had been collected on vehicle sales and other large purchases made out of state before the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated that type of tax by cities and counties.
THE CITY COUNCIL TIED 4-4 in an informal vote on whether to institute a finance committee to advise the council. Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg was absent. The matter will be taken up again when all council members are present, the panel decided.