Jackson takes it to the streets

Sunday, January 5, 2003

This year the city of Jackson has scheduled $5.7 million in infrastructure improvements, more than it may be able to complete, city administrator Jim Roach acknowledges. The fast-growing city that takes pride in its football teams has a game plan for 2003 that doesn't leave much time to take a breath.

"I would rather work really hard ... and not get it all done than be twiddling our thumbs in the third quarter and congratulating ourselves that we got everything done," he said.

The city will take on improvements for its water distribution, sanitary sewer, street and electric distribution systems. That's a lot for most cities with a population of 12,000 but actually just an average year for Jackson, the fastest-growing city in southern Missouri.

The big projects include a new water well at the Jackson Industrial Park on U.S. 61 and a $642,000 pump upgrade at the city's aging water plant to increase water pressure, numerous additions to its sewer system, street improvements on South Shawnee Boulevard and South Old Orchard Road, and an extension of an electrical transmission line from Shawnee Boulevard to Oak Hill Road.

"If we complete all those things, we will have quite a busy year in the city," Mayor Paul Sander said.

Jackson's stable economy enables the small city to take on a large number of projects while maintaining the city's financial integrity, Sander said.

Improvements in travel

The street improvements on Shawnee between Old Cape Road and East Jackson Boulevard are those recommended by an engineering firm the city hired to develop a plan for easing the city's traffic congestion. The changes add another left-turn lane from Shawnee Boulevard onto East Jackson Boulevard and remove stop signs from nearby Old Cape Road.

The city also will extend South Old Orchard Road from the Buchheit's store north toward the city water tower.

The traffic engineers have submitted their draft report to the board of aldermen for their comments. The report soon will be presented to the city's traffic advisory committee.

As a group, the sanitary sewer improvements are the most costly, totaling more than $4 million. Construction on the Goose Creek interceptor and the East Main interceptor might not be completed if condemnation cases drag out. The Williams Creek interceptor and an Elwanda Drive relief sewer probably only will reach the design phase this year. A sewer extension to Jackson's soccer park and Meier Industrial Park is expected to be completed this year.

Most of the money for the water and sewer improvements comes from bonds approved by voters in 1997.

Bigger, better water plant

This year, the city also will begin studying a large capital improvement project that inevitably will be required in coming years, Roach said: a new water plant.

The city currently has two water plants. The oldest was built in 1924 and added to in 1955. The second plant was built in 1968.

"They are wearing out and are undersized," Roach said.

He predicted the study of the city's pumping facilities and capacity for future needs may take three years.

"It's a very serious process, a very serious study and a very serious investment," he said. "We're not in dire straits now, but we're not going to wait until we are."

Sander concurred with that assessment. "We need more water capability all over town," he said.

He also has been pushing along a plan to build a new community center and possibly a new library. The city is waiting for the Jackson School District to decide whether to become a partner in the projects.

"Once they decide what direction they want to go, then we will react accordingly," Sander said. "If they wish to partner, we will research it. If they don't, we'll have to regroup."

Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent of the school system, said the district will finish its plans this month or in February.

The schools will begin developing a comprehensive school improvement plan at the end of this month with the help of a consultant, Dr. Al Rowe.

No school construction is scheduled this year, but the district will begin looking at the possible need for an elementary school in the northeast part of the city and an addition to Jackson Middle School.

Residents' priorities

Jackson residents who were asked placed the community center high on their priorities for the city. Retiree Marti Strickland would use the center for indoor walking. Jackson has gyms, she said, "but people have to pay and some people don't have the money."

But, Strickland cautions, funding projects may be a problem.

"I don't know where they would get the money without raising taxes, and nobody wants them to raise taxes," she said.

Uptown merchant Irmgard Siemer wishes the city took better care of weeds along the streets uptown but acknowledges, "There are growing pains in this city. A lot of infrastructure needs to be taken care of, and we all have to be a little bit patient."

A resident for 31 years, Siemer is glad her family moved to Jackson from St. Louis and doesn't mind the heavy growth the city is undergoing. "That's part of the program," she said. "If we don't lose that certain aura that's always been around Jackson, growth is good. You can't stand still."

Nineteen-year-old Roy Kunz, a pizza parlor manager trainee, lives outside Jackson but spends much time in town. He often uses city parks for playing basketball and baseball and for swimming.

He simply likes walking in the neighborhoods. "It's safe," Kunz said. "I don't have to worry about anything."

But he said he and his friends sometimes drive to Perryville, Mo., to use that city's community center.

But Jackson remains his overall choice. "I would pick Jackson over Cape," he said. "Cape has a lot more things to do, but Jackson is more cozy."

Clothes and breakfast

Just last September, Chamber of Commerce executive director Ken Parrett said Jackson comes up short in only two areas: It lacked a store that sold new clothing for women and men, and there was nowhere to eat breakfast except one of the chain restaurants that serve burgers.

Jackson hasn't acquired the clothing store yet, but it now has two restaurants serving breakfast: Sidelines and Reflections Fine Dining.

He expects Jackson businesses to have another healthy year in 2003. "I don't think the economy is as bad as it seems," he said.

Though two longtime Jackson businesses, Sander True Value Hardware and the Goose Creek Trading Co., closed in 2002, Jackson seems to weather economic slumps better than most cities. Jackson's sales tax revenue increased by 5 percent in 2002 at a time when many communities were struggling to hold onto revenue levels from the previous year.

"There are a number of people in Jackson that are very loyal to the community and that shop locally," he said. "Our businesses give that small-town, hometown customer service."

Parrett predicts enormous business growth along Highway 34/72 once the widening improvements are made, especially at the access points.

Other projects the city expects to start this year include:

Realignment of the Route D/North Farmington intersection.

Grading at the Jackson Industrial Park.

Developing a transportation development district that would provide tax money and bonding authority for projects such as an Interstate 55 interchange at East Main Street. The Missouri Department of Transportation expects to begin work on the interchange in 2005.

Relocate utilities in conjunction with MoDOT beginning the first phase of Highway 34/72 improvements.

Jackson residents also may see ground broken this year on a new senior center. The city, acting as the applicant for the senior center board, received a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant to help build the center. The grant is contingent on approval of the plan for an apartment building for the elderly to be built adjacent to the new center. That housing awaits approval by the Missouri Housing Development Commission.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: