By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
City Manager Mark Rohr on Monday night directed city staff to work with Joplin’s Civil Air Patrol to find space for the unit to meet and train after the group was told to move out of the old terminal building at the Joplin Regional Airport.
Six representatives of the patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, asked to speak Monday night to the City Council about the unit having been asked to vacate the old terminal building, where it had met and trained for decades, by Dec. 1 so that the City could rent out the space.
Jered Horn, the squadron’s communication officer, thanked the city for providing the space but said the group had operated in conjunction with the airport since 1942. The unit bought land at the airport and built its own hangar there in 1943 and was appointed as the state wing. The state headquarters was located at the Joplin airport until 1954. After that, the group sold its land and hangar to the city and was granted free space in the airport terminal for its work as part of that agreement, Horn told the council.
He said squadron representatives know that providing meeting and training space comes at a cost to the city, “but we want to convince you those costs are an investment and that it is an investment that far outweighs the cost.” He said he hoped to persuade the city to continue providing meeting and training space for the squadron at or near the airport.
Ernie Trumbly, the squadron’s aerospace education officer, said the unit teaches and promotes the love of aerospace to both cadets and senior members. It provides hands-on training related to aerospace jobs and careers, and also trains for disaster or emergency preparedness. Trumbly said he has assembled a nationally recognized collection of aerospace equipment that he houses here to conduct training for the Joplin unit as well as all other units in Southwest Missouri. He said he was developing a program to open the training to cadets and pilots from across the United States who would come to Joplin for it.
Though others had requested to speak, Rohr addressed the council himself to say that there had been a “communication breakdown” and that he had not been aware that the city’s actions to lease the terminal space was shutting out the squadron. He said he learned that when the council agenda was issued last week and he saw the requests to speak. He said he then contacted the squadron officials to tell them the city is willing to work something out.
Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean asked the air patrol representatives if that would satisfy their concerns. Horn, with the unit’s agreement, said it would.
Rohr said that after city staff looks at all the options to re-establish a home for the squadron, he will report back to council.
Bridge logistics questioned
The second reading of a measure to accept a $12 million federal grant for street and bridge projects from the U.S. Department of Transportation drew more objections from one councilman and questions from several.
Councilman Bill Scearce questions the logistics of building a two-lane bridge over the train tracks on what is four-lane 15th Street.
He said he studied a preliminary design, and that he believes it would create “some problems with dumping all that traffic into those neighborhoods” between 20th and 15th streets from Indiana Avenue to Michigan Avenue. Because the design is preliminary, it is not known which streets might have to be closed by the proposed bridge, but Scearce indicated that it will close Indiana Avenue. He said that is a concern in an area adjoining what will be the new Joplin High School that will be surrounded largely by neighborhood streets.
Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg said it looked like the new bridge would close side streets from Michigan Avenue west to Minnesota Avenue on 15th Street.
Jack Schaller, assistant public works director, said the intent of building a bridge over the train tracks is to make the area safer for motorists and pedestrians. He said the area has a high rate of accidents because of the train crossing.
Closing streets in the area would result in detours of only one to two blocks for many motorists, Schaller said, which he said is considered “fairly minimal.” He did not offer any statistics on how many cars the plan could reroute onto residential streets.
The city is still about $1.5 million away from having enough money to build the 15th Street bridge but has asked the Kansas City Southern Railway Co. for a contribution to help fill that gap, Schaller told the council.
In other action, the council approved zoning for a Casey’s General Store to be built on the southeast corner of 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue. A zoning request by Dr. Kimberly Wood to build a medical office and a rental reception hall at 20th Street and Murphy Boulevard also was approved.
The council agreed to sell city surplus properties at 2329, 2401-2403 and 2934 Connecticut Ave., 2729 Joplin Ave. and 1408 S. Jackson Ave. Those lots were sold at prices ranging from $2,216 to $5,225, depending on the sizes and the appraised values.