Immaculate Conception plan awaits Jackson OK

Monday, August 11, 2003

The folks at the Immaculate Conception Catholic School are finding out the hard way about the frustrations of beauracracy.

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be such a big deal that their building project would be delayed a couple of weeks. But these aren't normal circumstances.

On May 6, the school was obliterated by a tornado. What remained of the wreckage has been torn down and cleared away. This year, the students will be taught in temporary modular buildings. But school officials hope to have a new building for next year, and they're on a tight deadline to make that happen.

At last Monday night's Jackson Board of Aldermen meeting, the board tabled two motions to abandon city streets so the school could go along with its plans to rebuild and reconfigure its campus. In the next three years, the school plans to make $6 million worth of capital improvements.

"We're pushed because here it is August and if we're going to have it built for next school year, timing is so important," said parish council president Ted Williams. "We were hoping for a decision Monday night, but we understood there had to be questions answered, and we respect that. The city has been super with us. And we want to be good neighbors, too. That's part of our belief."

A few property owners in the area had concerns and questions about the matter and, as is Jackson's customary procedure when there is opposition, the board tabled the motion.

"I have to take everything into account and do some more thinking," said alderman Val Tuschhoff. "I've got to represent 12,000 people, not 4,000 who belong to the church. I just need to have more discussion about it."

Needs clear reason

Before she makes a decision on how to vote, Tuschhoff said she'll have to have a clear understanding why the school couldn't find a way to build its campus without taking a street. The city already abandoned Ohio Street from Jefferson to Madison Streets for the school.

"I hate giving away streets that the taxpayers have already paid for," she said. "I thought we did our duty when we gave them that. They'll have to show why it's important to abandon Madison Street. I have a hard time understanding why they went ahead and made plans to build on the street. I see the plans, but I'm not an engineer and I'm having a hard time understanding why it's necessary."

Tuschhoff made the motion to table the issue Monday night. The motion carried with two nays, those coming from Joe Bob Baker and Barbara Lohr, who are both members of the parish.

The board will take up the issue again at tonight's 7:30 p.m. study session and will likely reach a decision. They will not vote on the matter until the next regular meeting, which is next Monday.

The school is asking that the city abandon Madison Street from 100 feet east of Hope Street down to the railroad tracks.

Actual pavement only exists from Hope Street to Ohio, but the city owns the right of way for another imaginary block.

The school needs the street abandoned to proceed with its plan to build a new gymnasium. The building will cover about two-thirds of the street's length.

Wants to keep parking lot

Evelyn Wille, owner of the bakery on the corner of Hope and Madison that was destroyed by the tornado, said she had no problem with the city abandoning the street, but only if the Missouri Department of Transportation doesn't take a good portion of her parking lot when it decides to widen Hope Street. Wille said she had seen plans where MoDOT planned to take 21 feet of right of way from her property.

Eric Krapf, a project engineer with MoDOT, said that dimension did not come from the state. The Hope Street project is not on MoDOT's five-year plan. Aside from that, Krapf said, MoDOT has determined there would be two ways to widen Hope Street -- by acquiring right of way or by building retaining walls, which would be more expensive. Rodney Bollinger, the city public works director, said the city has not discussed any specific dimensions as far as right-of- way acquisition.

The city administrator, Jim Roach, has asked the board to consider also abandoning Ohio Street from Madison to Monroe. Roach said he sees no reason the city should continue to maintain the hilly section that he views as becoming a private drive once Madison is abandoned. City engineer Dan Triller said there could be some difficulty with snow removal on Ohio if Madison is abandoned.

Arnold Strickert, representing Jackson Lanes Bowling alley, believes Ohio should remain a city street. He said the bowling alley needs the street for parking.

Elmer and Maxine Southard, representing Southard's radio and television service, said they are opposed to the Ohio abandonment because it will reduce access to the family business.

Monsignor Edward Eftink said he would prefer Ohio Street to remain open also.

Williams, the parish council president, says he believes everything can be worked out.

"I think the concerns were just a matter of the property owners not having enough information," he said.


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