The Neosho City Council voted Tuesday to close three city streets at the Newton County A&M Fairgrounds.

The Neosho City Council voted Tuesday to close three city streets at the Newton County A&M Fairgrounds.

Streets to be closed off to traffic via locked gates are Briggs Street, Beaver Street and Carver Avenue. Charles Gray, with the Newton County A&M Society, had approached the council earlier this month to ask that certain side streets at the fairgrounds be blocked to through traffic because of ongoing thefts and vandalism there.

The gates will be erected by the A&M Society, and all the locks will have matching keys, copies of which will be provided to city emergency and utilities personnel in case vehicle access is needed. 

“This is more than what we even asked for, so we really appreciate the consideration,” Gray told council members.

Councilman Steve Hart noted, however, that with the roads closed off, the police wouldn't be able to patrol the inside of the fairgrounds in their vehicles, assuming they didn't get out and unlock the gates every time.

“You may have more exposure, you may have less, I'm sure you've looked at these possibilities,” Hart told Gray. “But I'm sure you know our police probably can't protect that area as well from the outside as they could if they were able to drive through.”

Gray said that the way it is now, people up to mischief at the fairgrounds simply hide their vehicles inside the dark of the barns until the police have passed by. Blocking off the roads means they can't drive onto the property in the first place. Gray said that posts and cables will be strung up around the borders of the fairgrounds to keep vehicles from driving in that way.

Councilman David Ruth suggested that the city vacate the roads, making them private, rather than gate off public streets. If the roads were private, the A&M Society could do what they wanted to with them, while the city would still retain its water and sewer easements, Ruth said.

However, Mayor Richard Davidson said the city should first close the streets off and fix the problem in the short term.

“Then if we want to come back and consider vacating those streets altogether, we certainly have that prerogative,” Davidson said. “I'd like to fix short term problem first and get those fairgrounds closed up so you can better control that.”

Also on Tuesday the council:
• Voted on final reading to adopt the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, councilman David Ruth dissenting. Ruth voted no both this year and last year because the budget includes the city property tax. Ruth was serving on the council in 1997 when city voters were told the property tax would go away in exchange for passage of a parks and drainage sales tax. Ruth has previously said he won't go back on his word. In 2010 the property tax levy was raised from zero to the tax ceiling rate, which is based on the city's total assessed valuation, to help save the then-financially foundering city.

• Voted on final reading to correct amendments to lease purchase documents relating to the taxable certificates of participation series 2010.

• Voted on final reading to approve two separate bills amending this fiscal year's budget to reflect revenues and expenditures in the general fund (police department) and the hotel/motel tax respectively (fall festival). Earlier this month the council had approved a $31,855.80 payment to the Newton County Sheriff's Department for prisoner board for the 2011 calendar year and 2012 year to date. Historically, the city has paid the prisoner board billings one year in arrears, i.e. from the previous year. However at the same meeting the council approved changing that policy and the city will begin paying the county on a monthly basis for prisoner board. At that Sept. 4 meeting, the council had also approved a $3,330 agreement, payable out of the hotel/motel tax fund, with Maccaroo Gym to provide free inflatable rides at the Neosho Fall Festival on Oct. 6.

• Accepted a bid from Justin Beck for management services at the Neosho Municipal Golf Course, for a flat rate of $220,000, out of which Beck will hire his own labor and cover other costs. Beck, who has been golf course manager since 2005, did not include in his bid a percentage of golf course rentals, as in the past. Golf course management service has historically been rebid every three years, though it will now be rebid every  year. Beck was selected over one other bidder, Billy Casper Golf, of Vienna, Va. City manager Troy Royer said that Billy Casper Golf did not meet all of the bid specifications.

• Voted to approve a city support schedule for federal and state grant programs encompassing the construction of community housing projects and other similar projects, giving priority projects within the city limits, then projects contiguous to the city limits, then projects within one mile of the city limits.

• Voted to approve a letter of support for an application made by TerraVest Development with the Missouri Housing Development Commission for tax credits to renovate the Shaffer Building at 224 N. Washington St. in downtown Neosho into family housing units, as well as build new family duplexes.

• Voted to approve the annual tax levy agreement with Newton County to have the county collect the city's property tax in exchange for 1.5 percent of all collections.

• Voted, councilman Charles Collinsworth abstaining as he sometimes broadcasts with American Media Investments, Inc., to approve the annual renewal and invoice for the north radio repeater, located northwest of town at Route NN and Jute Road. It is part of the city's backup system in case one of the two repeaters goes out. The $1,980 agreement is with American Media Investments, Inc.

• Voted to amend the electric service agreement with Empire District Electric to install one streetlight at the southwest corner of Neosho Heights Circle, exchange a 7,000 MV light with a 16,000 HPS light at the southeast corner of Geyer Road and Oak Ridge Drive and exchange a 20,000 MV light with a 16,000 HPS light at Benton Avenue and Thain Street. The first two actions would increase the city's monthly payment by $18.61 and $2.20 respectively, and the third would decrease the city's monthly payment by $3.49.

• Appointed Barbara Lombardi to the Parks and Recreation Golf Course Board and announced vacancies that still exist on that board, as well on the board of adjustments-zoning; board of appeals; economic development sales tax committee; and the planning and zoning commission. If interested in serving on any of these advisory boards, contact city clerk Nora Houdyshell at 451-8050.