The Neosho Transportation Development District Board of Directors hopes to begin a community discussion about needed transportation improvements on the western side of Neosho.

After property owners within the district voted unanimously to re-elect Ray Stipp and Frank Adams to the board Friday, the board voted to accept the results of the election, and then proceeded to elect new officers to the board of directors. Re-elected to their previous posts are Steve Roark, chairman; Jeff Maxwell, vice chairman; Gene Schwartz, secretary-treasurer; Adams, assistant treasurer; and Kathy Gambill, executive director.

The board then approved its consent agenda, which included the payment of bills. After this month’s payment of $65,000 to the Neosho Area Business and Industrial Foundation, Inc., chairman Roark said the TDD expects to pay off the about $85,000 balance of that $170,000 loan by July. He said that loan originated from additional design work that the Missouri Department of Transportation wanted paid up front to expedite the process rather than going through normal billing procedures.

Roark said, “We are very anxious to expedite anything we can with the TDD to move our projects forward;” and he thanked NABIFI for helping to make that happen.

Prompted by visitors’ comments from Dwight Douglas about needed improvements on Industrial Drive and Kodiak Road, which are not within the TDD, discussion then ensued about the need for developing a master plan for contending with expected growth in that area.

“All of the different tax entities know that we need to have some kind of a master plan for roads and transportation in the direction that Neosho is growing,” and, Roark added, “Neosho is growing to the west.”

He said a TDD liaison citizens group that was recently formed, and includes representatives of the various Newton County taxing entities, will be invited to the next TDD meeting to begin the discussion about how to develop that master plan.

Roark said, “The TDD is certainly going to be doing its part in terms of contributing to improving transportation on the west side of Neosho. But the other entities, the Neosho Special Road District, Newton County Commission, the school district, with the city of Neosho, all of these entities are going to have to come together to begin talking about how we go about developing a master plan for transportation on the west side of Neosho.”

Expanding upon the comments of Mike Franks, executive director for economic development, that they can plan for growth or just let it happen and deal with it afterwards, Roark said, “We would like to be proactive in trying to cause this discussion to start.”

Roark said he hoped to set up the meeting within a couple of months, which would include a couple of people with expertise in developing such plans,“To share their thoughts with the different entities that are involved on the west side of Neosho.”

Roark said it would not be the TDD’s place to take a lead role, and couldn’t under its charter; but it can facilitate having a discussion among the entities. He said Dr. Jim Cummins, vice president of business and finance at Crowder College, was the first one to bring up the importance of developing such a master plan several years ago.

“And he was right on the money,” Roark said.

Troy Royer, Neosho city manager, said the city is in the beginning phases of developing an update to the comprehensive plan, and transportation developments on the western edge of the community would be included in the discussion.

Royer said, “I’m always ready to sit down. I don’t know why we can’t sit down to cooperate.”

Roark hopes that a meeting of citizens from a large cross-section of the community through the liaison committee along with some expertise will, “begin painting a picture of where we go next.”
“[Industrial Drive]  is under increasing heavy truck pressure. The trucks use that road to avoid having to go through all the stoplights,” Roark said.

He said the narrow road is under the responsibility of the Neosho Special Road District and added, “The collective ‘we’ in all of the different entities out there need to come together and help each other address these road issues. There are solutions. We have a solution or two in mind, but there’s probably another solution that may be better than the ones we know about right now, and I believe that when we start the process of discussing what the needs are and what needs to be done, that we as cooperating entities will figure out ways to make these things happen.”

With about $4.4 million being borrowed by the TDD, matched with $2.6 million being spent by MoDOT, Roark said the TDD will pay off its portion of the projects within ten years, expecting zero growth in the area. He said the TDD will then still have five years to run to generate additional monies in the future to help with projects that benefit the TDD.

Roark said, “The TDD is able to do projects on roads that help the TDD road system. They don’t even have to be within the TDD, they can just be roads that help the TDD road system.”

Roark predicts that the area won’t have the luxury of waiting ten years to fix Industrial Dr. and a couple of other roads in the area, including Kodiak.

“That’s why we need to come together and begin thinking collectively about how we come up with the monies to make these projects happen,” he said.

Roark said the bottom line is safety, as the intent of the improvements is first and foremost to improve the safety of citizens.
“And with all the schools out there, the safety of the children, he said, adding that is why MoDOT gets involved in such cost-share projects.

Roark said an alternate to Business 49 is needed to get from U.S. Highway 60 to Missouri Highway 86; and a good way for truck traffic to get down to the industrial park is necessary to keep them from going through so many stoplights alongside passenger vehicles.

Another prediction by Roark is that despite basing the repayment schedule on the assumption of no growth in sales tax revenue within the TDD, growth will happen and the debt could be repaid significantly before ten years. He concluded that in each succeeding year, “We will develop a higher level of comfort on being able to begin going in debt for some additional projects in that area to help the other taxing entities out there accomplish some of the things they need to do.”

Roark added that any future projects undertaken by the TDD must first be approved by a vote of the property owners within the district.
Franks closed the meeting by reporting there are resources available to help, but a plan must be formulated to move forward. Franks also reported that a sixth major developer is interested in the TDD. He said the St. Louis-based developer has already purchased property in Neosho.