Cape to go after money for river overlook

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The city of Cape Girardeau will seek more than $362,000 in federal funding for a Mississippi River overlook that would involve restoration of the remaining section of the old bridge and construction of a terrace on the bluff above Aquamsi Street where visitors could look out over the river.

The city council voted to pursue the project Monday night, authorizing city staff to apply to the Missouri Department of Transportation for the federal money.

If approved, the money would pay 80 percent of the cost of the project. The Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has spearheaded planning for the project, would pay the local match amounting to more than $90,000.

In all, the project could cost $453,000.

Mayor Jay Knudtson likes the proposed project.

"I think we will now have the best of both worlds," he said, explaining that the improvements would preserve the historic entrance of the old bridge while providing a terrace overlook just east of the landmark.

The bridge section and the terrace overlook would both be connected by walkways to the River Campus trail just to the south.

Plaques could detail the history of the old bridge, consulting engineers have suggested.

The proposed terrace would include a viewing scope that will allow visitors to get a close-up view of the river. A bronze plaque listing all the contributors to the decorative lights on the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge would be installed at the overlook, project planners outlined in a report distributed to the city council.

The council has other downtown improvements plans too, all dependent on securing federal money through MoDOT.

The council authorized the city to seek at least $48,000 in federal funding for Victorian-style street lights and financial assistance to downtown property owners for restoration of the facades of the downtown's historic buildings. Old Town Cape, the downtown redevelopment group, has promised to come up with the local share of needed funding, amounting to at least $12,000, officials said.

Still another downtown project moved forward Monday night as the council awarded a contract to Mueller Bros. Irrigation Inc. of Cape Girardeau to install a brick-paver sidewalk and information boards for the floodwall mural at a cost of $44,845. City officials said the Water Street improvements will be completed before July 4 festivities downtown.

Main Street study

Traffic flow on downtown Main Street also was discussed. Council members asked the city staff to look into the possibility of securing MoDOT money for a traffic study of the downtown streets, following up on a suggestion made by planning and zoning commission members and some downtown merchants.

Commission chairman Skip Smallwood told the council he sees such a study as the only way to resolve the controversy over whether to change traffic patterns on downtown's Main Street, which is currently one way southbound from Broadway to William Street.

Limited charter review

In other action, the council decided it would proceed with only a limited review of the city charter.

The action to limit the scope of the charter review came at the urging of Knudtson who said he didn't want to encourage a review of the city's ward system of electing council members.

"It's a terribly divisive issue," he said. Some people want to scrap the ward system, but others want to keep it, the mayor said.

Knudtson said he sees no reason to change the ward system. Councilwoman Loretta Schneider argued for a more comprehensive review, including the ward system.

But in the end, the council agreed to appoint a six-member committee that would have 120 days to review and suggest possible changes to the charter on filling council vacancies, uncontested council seats, fee limitations and whether to eliminate the city's ethics commission.

Knudtson said the committee will be appointed from names that each council member recommends. The committee will include one resident from each of the city's six wards.

335-6611, extension 123

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