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City Beat

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by Karen E. Culp

City Council tabled a resolution recognizing the transfer of ownership of the city's cable system from TCI to AT&T at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Officials with TCI had asked for more time to work out some conditions established in the resolution, and council granted the request, once it had assurance that the 120-day consideration time the city had for the transfer could be extended.

The time to consider the transfer will be extended until Jan. 31, as set out in an emergency bill council passed Dec. 14. The city will now hold a series of meetings with TCI officials to discuss some of the proposals, said Ross Summers, TCI of Springfield's general manager.

"We are looking forward to working with the city and getting things moving along. I feel confident we'll be able to get some of these things worked out," Summers said.

Some of the city's concerns with the cable provider include its assessment of late fees, extension of service to new subdivisions and customer service availability.

Council also held a public hearing on three bills that would change the zoning in the west-central portion of Springfield. The bills are part of a series of council bills that have followed the West Central Neighborhood Alliance strategic plan.

These particular bills would change the mixed zoning in the area to single-family residential zoning. The areas are between Broadway and Campbell; along Main and Mt. Vernon; between Mt. Vernon and Madison between Kansas and Ferguson avenues; and between Mt. Vernon and Monroe Terrace streets between New and Douglas avenues.

The rezoning effort is part of a strategic plan to reduce the density in the area and infuse it with more single-family homes, said Brendan Griesemer, who works in the city's planning department. Some people who own businesses in the area spoke against the "down-zoning," fearing it would reduce the value of the property they own.

A representative from the West Central Neighborhood Alliance said the zoning was appropriate for the area and would help restore a number of the older, larger homes in the area that have been broken up into duplexes or apartments.

Council member Tom Carlson questioned the underlying concerns about the neighborhood.

"My concern is, have we as a city really looked at the underlying economic rationale to achieve the desired result here?" Carlson said.

Carlson said he feared changing the zoning was not the answer to the economic and social concerns that have led the area to develop as it has.

The area has a number of such duplexes and apartments because there are people who can only afford that type of housing, he added.

Ralph Rognstad, assistant director of planning and development for the city, said the effort was not going to solve the housing problems in Springfield, but that the issue was to try to improve the area overall.

"We share those concerns about trying to house people who don't have the means for anything else, but we're also trying to put the focus on substantially improving this area," Rognstad said.

The council also tabled a resolution that established criteria for a second industrial park to be developed by the three-way partnership that developed the Partnership Industrial Center.

Council also held first readings on two bills that would make budget adjustments for fiscal 1998-1999.

One bill would amend the budget by $464,454 to "accommodate additional revenues and expenses for cooperative marketing programs produced in partnership with the Missouri Division of Tourism."

A portion of the budget adjustment is for the Convention and Visitors Bureau to add a full-time convention salesperson and two clerical positions.

The other first reading bill dealt with the city's entering into a contract with the Housing Authority of Springfield.

The city would provide off-duty police officers to assist with combating illegal drugs and violent crime within the housing provided by the Housing Authority of Springfield.

The off-duty police officer protection would be in addition to the baseline services now being provided. The budget adjustment for that service would be $54,486, provided for in the Police Department's budget.

The council also passed unanimously a bill to enter into an infrastructure agreement with the Blackstone Group, the group developing the Walgreens that will be in Civic Park.

The agreement is for streetscape improvements at the northwest corner of St. Louis and National.

The council tabled a bill to annex Springfield Underground because of a language change that had to be made in the ordinance.

The bill was up for second reading, and will be voted on at the next council meeting, Jan. 4. The Dec. 14 meeting was the only one for that month.

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