Springfield, MO

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by Steven Diegel

An early glimpse of what is planned for the 1998-99 fiscal year was provided at a lengthy City Council meeting last week, as city officials presented a proposed budget and outlined priorities for Springfield for the next year.

City Manager Tom Finnie outlined the proposed budget and a number of priorities the city will address, including improved traffic management, expanded and better-equipped law enforcement agencies, and plans to develop community programs and neighborhood improvement efforts.

Next year's expected revenues and proposed expenditures total more than $154 million, up from last year's total of $137.2 million. Finnie said this should allow the city to effectively address these priorities and remain competitive with other cities.

"A lot of people don't realize that we compete with other cities," Finnie said, referring to city services, taxes, businesses and population. Compared to other Midwestern and Missouri cities, "we are very competitive."

City officials said a number of budget workshops are planned between May 4 and May 21 to address any questions regarding the proposal; a budget hot line has also been set up at 864-1400.

The council also voted on a resolution to endorse phase II of the SMSU Park-N-Ride Transit Facility and Enhanced Transit System.

The plan would expand the current Park-N-Ride program utilized by the university, constructing a second multi-deck facility and adding shuttles to transport students to and from campus. University officials expect the expansion would reduce campus traffic and keep students from parking in neighboring residential areas.

"This one is calling for 1,270 spaces for cars; should be five stories; and otherwise look just like the one" near Cherry Street and Kimbrough Avenue, according to Fred Marty, vice president for administrative services at SMSU.

Marty said the university hopes to get funding in place and final plans drawn up over the next year. Actual construction would begin within the next three years.

The council voiced its support, voting unanimously to approve the measure.

After some discussion and a number of changes, the council also made a final decision regarding the disbursement of Community Development Block Grant funds, financing a number of center city priorities and making $640,553 available to various city organizations.

The CDBG funds which total $2.1 million this year primarily finance center city rehabilitation efforts, small business loans, and several downtown business groups. Remaining funds are being distributed among community organizations.

This year's biggest recipients will include the Springfield Family Y ($90,000); the Community Schools Project ($84,500); the Springfield Community Center, which will receive funds for the Summer Youth Program ($86,000); the Family Achievement Academy ($13,000); and the Sigma House Stabilization/Transition Program ($34,000).

Representatives from several groups that did not receive funds, or did not

receive the full amount requested, once again presented their case at the meet-


But with only $640,553 available to cover nearly $2.4 million in total grant requests, not every organization could receive a share of the money. Many were urged by the council to look into alternative fund-raising measures.

The council also approved several motions discussed at a previous meeting, including a proposal allowing Nextel Communications to build a 220-foot telecommunications tower near Fremont Avenue and Kingsley Street.

Nextel officials previously reported that every effort had been made to collocate the antenna on another tower in the coverage area, but all were either at capacity or unsuitable for additional carriers. The new tower would be equipped to collocate up to two additional carriers in the future.

Not all of the meeting focused on the business at hand. Following a brief presentation by a local barber shop quartet, council members and staff bid a fond farewell to former Councilman Charlie Dennison, who resigned last month to run for presiding commissioner.

Dennison, who served on the council since 1995, expressed his appreciation to fellow council members and city staff, as well as his pleasure in the opportunity to serve as councilman.

"I don't know if I can think of anything more rewarding ÐÐ or anything more fun ÐÐ than serving the people," he said.

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