A group of Neosho property owners showed up to the Lampo Center Thursday evening to learn how the upcoming sidewalk replacement, road improvement and trail addition project on East Spring Street will affect their businesses.
Work on the City of Neosho's $521,000 project is expected to start this summer, while the city is hoping to see work begin as early as May or June.
The sidewalk replacement will begin at the intersection of Washington Street and East Spring Street, on the northeast corner of the downtown square, and continue east on Spring Street up until the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks.
Mike Atkinson, engineer with Allgeier, Martin and Associates, who are overseeing the project, said the sidewalks will run along both sides of the roadway.
A walking trail will also be installed, beginning behind the Lampo Center's parking lot, winding around the sand volleyball court, and running east until the parking lot nearest the helicopter in Morse Park.
Funding for the trail and sidewalk work comes from a Missouri Department of Transportation enhancement grant.
The third project will involve pouring an overlay of asphalt over East Spring Street, running from the Washington Street intersection going east to the other side of White Avenue.
Funding for the overlay also comes from a Missouri Department of Transportation grant, though it is a separate grant from that funding the sidewalks and trail work.
The City of Neosho has combined the three into one project, to be completed this summer.
The MoDOT grants will pay for 80 percent of the projects, Atkinson said, while the city is expected to pick up a 20 percent local match.
Missouri Development Finance Board funds will also go toward paying for the projects.
"The street's in bad shape, it needs some TLC, it's rough," Atkinson said. "When we come in and do the sidewalk project we're taking out the curb and gutter in the sidewalk and it destroys the street, so at the same time we're going to come in and rehab the street."
Audience member Doug Skaggs asked why the city chose the East Spring Street area to make the improvements.
"Why did you decide to put sidewalks in, in the first place when about 90-some percent of Neosho doesn't have any sidewalks, so why did you decide to put some here?" he asked.
Atkinson said the previous city administration had applied for the MoDOT enhancement grants to perform the work, and that the project has been tabled since 2007.
"What they were trying to do is make it look similar to the square, it was more of a beautification project initially," Atkinson said.
"Some of the reasons we have to go forward with this is because some of that money was spent back in 2007 which obligated us," said city manager Troy Royer. "It's either that or we pay back the grant money."
Page 2 of 3 - Royer noted that the project would also help the city to be ADA compliant, by making the new sidewalks handicap accessible.
Todd Denefrio, owner of the Denefrio Building, located at 315 East Spring St., attended Thursday's meeting to find out what the improvements in the East Spring Street neighborhood will mean for him and his carpentry business.
"I just came down to make sure it wasn't going to cost me anything," Denefrio said. "I didn't know what the costs were going to be or if they were going to leave my driveway."
Atkinson assured property owners that they would not be picking up any of the tab for the project, and said all existing driveways would remain, unless property owners asked that they be removed.
An unidentified audience member wondered what the city's long-term plans for the East Spring Street area are.
Royer noted the city's earlier demolition of the old Frye and Gray Building, previously located at the corner of East Spring Street and Lafayette Street. The area is intended to be turned into a green space, and Royer said the sidewalk improvements will aid in that project.
"I think it'll help enhance that area there," Royer said. "Eventually we're going to deed it to the county, that way they can incorporate it into the rest of that (Newton County) historic park."
Royer said a rock building located on that property, which is believed to have at one time been a blacksmith shop, was left standing.
Wes Franklin, the city's public relations coordinator and a member of the Newton County Historical Society, said the society plans to convert the rock building into a working blacksmith shop to be used for demonstrations.
He said the funds for the building work have already been budgeted by the historical society.
While the city removed the Frye and Gray Building last year, the building's foundation remains. Royer said this is due to a Department of Natural Resources and Department of Conservation requirement, to protect the cavefish living in the spring below the foundation.
He said the city has talked about putting a pavilion on the foundation, though that would be a future project.
Royer said the added green space in that area will also assist the city with storm water drainage.
Atkinson noted that the current driveways into the green space would be closed as part of the upcoming sidewalk project.
Meanwhile, two property owners in attendance Thursday worried about the impact of the asphalt overlay on flooding in the neighborhood, and they noted seeing water sit on the street in the past.
Atkinson said the project also includes some drainage work, which would address the flooding concern, including the proposed addition of a new drop inlet as well as the installation of a new 15-inch pipe.
Page 3 of 3 - Atkinson said there will be some disruptions to traffic flow on East Spring Street once the project is under way.
"We'll do sections and we are very sensitive to the fact that businesses have to stay open and people have to be able to access that," Atkinson said. "I'm not going to sugar coat it, it's going to be a mess. It's going to get worse before it gets better."
He said the project length is estimated to be two months.
Mike Hightower, Neosho's Public Works Director, also noted that East Spring Street would not be fully closed for the entire two-month span.
Property owners who were unable to attend Thursday evening's meeting, but who would like more information or have questions about the upcoming work, can contact the city's director of development services, Dana Daniel, at 451-8050.