The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 4, 2014

Sales tax renewal committee working on list of street projects

A nine-member committee studying proposals for the possible renewal of a sales tax for capital projects will rank a list of needs for street and road projects as part of its work.

The Capital Improvements Sales Tax Renewal Committee held its second meeting on Tuesday to talk about the steps for its work and discuss potential projects that could be done if the tax were renewed.

The three-eighths-cent sales tax expires Dec. 31. It has raised $4.3 million to $4.8 million a year since 2008, according to reports compiled by the city finance department.

The city also has a half-cent transportation sales tax that has provided $5.7 million to $6.4 million a year since 2008.

Nick Heatherly, public works director, asked the committee members to say whether they would recommend proposing the tax for renewal. The members agreed that it should be proposed for renewal. Heatherly said that recommendation would be made to the City Council in the panel’s final report, which will be developed over the next few meetings with the goal of giving it to the council by April 21. If the council approves, the question of whether to renew the tax would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide, perhaps in August.

Heatherly explained that the transportation sales tax funds pay for operations of the trolley system, the Joplin Regional Airport and maintenance projects for those operations and streets. The tax for capital projects traditionally pays for big projects such as the Connecticut Avenue railroad overpass, the North Main Street and Zora overpass, and the widening of Connecticut Avenue.

Of the capital improvements revenue, $50,000 has been allocated toward the annual $2 million paving of streets. The city is divided into seven sections, and one section is paved with overlay each year. Heatherly said the city intends to move that allocation out of the capital improvements fund and put it entirely in the transportation tax fund so that all of the capital improvements tax can be used for major projects.

Members of the panel talked about the needs they see for projects.

Aaron Doll questioned whether there should be an Interstate 44 overpass built at Indiana Avenue and other work to enlarge and extend that street for access to the new Mercy Hospital under construction.

There was discussion about a need to widen 32nd Street and improve the intersection at 32nd Street and Country Club Road, especially because one of the city’s new fire stations is located west of that intersection.

Member Ron Darby said that repairs of manhole covers, utility cuts and railroad crossings should be made a priority, based on comments by residents.

Krissi Gooch said water drainage is a problem in the area of 19th Street and Maiden Lane, the neighborhood where she lives.

Dan Johnson, a city engineer, said that stormwater drainage for that area is to be upgraded as part of a project that has started to widen Maiden Lane. Money for that will come from the city’s half-cent parks and stormwater sales tax.

Heatherly told the committee members that a list of more than 30 proposed projects will be delivered to them to rank for discussion at next Tuesday’s meeting. The members agreed that they would like to use a list compiled by the public works staff rather than drafting a new list.

Tax history

THE CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS TAX was first proposed in 2004 as the result of growth studies conducted by the city that showed that traffic was increasing at a rate of 3 to 5 percent per year and that the majority of vehicles traveling the city’s streets were not those of Joplin residents or businesses.

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