The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 15, 2013

City manager to unveil $130 million recovery plan

JOPLIN, Mo. — Citing a need to provide indoor and updated recreational and athletic activities, Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr on Monday will unveil a proposal for $130 million in projects, including a $40 million fieldhouse that would address many of the needs cited by all segments of the community in past public forums.

It is part of the city’s proposed plan to spend a $113 million long-term recovery grant recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Community Development Block Grant program and other available recovery funds.

A 28-page proposal for the spending plan will be presented by Rohr during a City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

“With a variety of existing resources, and now an additional $113 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, our focus has shifted beyond minimizing loss to encouraging population growth through common sense, yet dynamic, long view efforts,” Rohr writes in the executive summary of the plan.

City administrators and staff have been working for eight weeks — since the announcement of the $113 million grant — to draft a recommendation for spending. Rohr had said earlier that the grant was unexpected because the city had last year received a $45 million CDBG award in response to an application the city submitted seeking funds to help with tornado recovery.

If approved by the City Council, Joplin will be a hub of construction from practically end to end nearly immediately.

“Due to the nature of the federal funding, the city will have a mere 24 months to complete the identified projects — time is of the essence,” Rohr writes.

Much of the fieldhouse proposal takes in the ideas residents have given the city in past public meetings, particularly in the 2010 “Blueprint for the Future” public forum.

Two other projects that would make a visible impact — a $500,000 Greentown neighborhood and a 20th Street streetscape program — also are on the list.

Overall, the plan addresses a number of infrastructure needs: installing and repairing sidewalks, both sanitary sewer and stormwater repair and replacement, streets projects with curb and gutter, and tree planing.

The streetscape, the green neighborhood, sidewalk and walking trails are all projects that were supported by public input given to the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team.

Jane Cage, chairman of the CART, said she has not yet seen the plan but believes it is an exciting prospect.

“The ideas are directly in line with what citizens said they wanted in the CART plan,” she said, especially the 20th Street streetscaping plan. “To go from a design to reality is really satisfying,” she said, if the plan obtains City Council approval.

“People want a city with a pleasing appearance. People want a city with recreational amenities. I think we’re open to becoming the kind of place we can be. I don’t feel like we have any limits right now.”

It would also provide money for mental health services and job training and education programs, part of that in cooperation with the Joplin School District.

The fieldhouse plan is part of a project Rohr identifies as the Joplin Commons and it is the largest single cost of all the projects.

It would provide amenities Joplin residents have suggested such as an indoor swimming pool suitable for competition swimming, basketball and volleyball courts, indoor soccer fields, a senior exercise and therapeutic swimming center, walking and sprint tracks.

“We are so excited about it,” said Jennifer Martucci, president of the Joplin Swim Team. She said the plan would make year-round USA swimming competition possible and the plan also would provide for therapeutic swimming. “It will greatly improve the quality of life for Joplin,” she said.

The commons plan includes a new $2.7 million Little League park and T-ball fields. A separate $750,000 indoor skatepark also would be erected.

Meeting rooms also would be built in the complex.

Rohr said the amenities are meant to address health and exercise concerns as well as recreational needs and serve as an attraction for people to move to Joplin. It would provide the amenities needed for the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department and the Joplin Sports Authority to provide athletic programs and events for Joplin children whose families cannot afford to compete with traveling teams. It would also allow them to program events that would bring visitors to Joplin.

Craig Hull, the director of the Joplin Sports Authority, said the commons proposal would create opportunities to stage many large events in Joplin.

“We support this proposal and hopefully it’s something that goes forward,” Hull said.

Cage said that if the $130 million proposal is carried out, “I believe that on May 22, 2016, the eyes of the world will be on Joplin as they come back to see what we were able to do since the tornado. This is a huge step in showing the world we were determined to come back as a better place than we were before. Out of an opportunity we never wanted, we were able to make good.”

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