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City Beat

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by Steven Diegel

Road and intersection improvement projects dominated much of the discussion at a brief City Council meeting Jan. 20.

The first such resolution considered would allocate $1.9 million toward an intersection improvement planned for Sunshine Street and Campbell Avenue. Plans call for widening the intersection to allow for additional leftÐturn lanes and easier right turns into the flow of traffic.

City officials hope the effort will help alleviate growing traffic congestion in the area around Bass Pro Shops.

"This would double the leftÐturn lanes at Sunshine and Campbell," according to Tom Finnie, Springfield city manager. "It would be a twin to the intersection at National and Sunshine."

If the motion carries as expected, city officials said, construction will begin in midÐFebruary and should be completed by August. An incentive clause has also been included to encourage an early completion date.

"We do have an incentive clause in the contract, and we are encouraging them to finish as soon as possible," said Nick Heatherly, assistant director of Public Works.

Heatherly said the project, engineered by Hartman and Company, will be financed completely through the city's general fund.

A number of questions were raised by council members concerning the responsibility and liability for any followÐup work which might be necessary. They are expected to discuss the matter further and vote at the next meeting.

Council members also heard preliminary discussion over a resolution to provide $91,000 in additional funds for the demolition of buildings declared dangerous or otherwise considered to be a public nuisance.

City officials reported that monies are allocated every year for anticipated demolition projects, but they typically require adjustments as the year progresses. This year only $25,000 was originally set aside ÐÐ not nearly enough to cover bids on the 20 or so remaining structures.

"Each year we allocate a token amount for the removal of dangerous buildings," said Finnie. "This is the budget adjustment to reflect the actual cost of the removal (through the remainder of the fiscal year)."

Bob Turner, director of the Department of Building Development Services, said the city does take steps to try to recover some of these expenditures, generally placing a lien on the property which must be paid before the property can be sold or transferred.

"We do reclaim some of the funds" through that process, Turner said. He added that new guidelines are under consideration which would tighten up the ordinances and place penalties directly on property owners ÐÐ possibly through penalty of foreclosure.

The council also approved a resolution to spend $50,000 in center city funds toward the conversion of McDaniel St. into a two-way thoroughfare between Campbell Avenue and Kimbrough Avenue.

While no discussion took place before the vote, the proposal has received considerable support from area businesses and residents. Several spoke at the previous council meeting, saying that motorists often ignore the current street layout and go against the designated flow of traffic to reach buildings, parking lots or other thoroughfares.

Council members responded to the general show of support, voting unanimously in favor of the motion.

The council also concluded discussion on a yet another motion to vacate a portion of land located at the northeast corner of National Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street. While currently undeveloped, the land could potentially complete Walnut Lawn, connecting National and Fremont avenues, or open the door to any number of other future development possibilities.

Residents of the neighboring Compton Hills subdivision have lobbied to prevent a thoroughfare through their neighborhood, fearing the impact an expected increase in traffic could have on the residential development.

City planners, however, again decided it would be more prudent to retain the rights to the land and keep open the possibility of future development. The council voted 7-to-2 against vacating the land, with Councilmen Russell Rhodes and Bob Vanaman opposed.

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