Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a great week. The weather has warmed up a bit since Monday, but it looks like Old Man Winter is coming back to visit tomorrow. I hate cold weather!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The City View weekly column will now be written by Neosho City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Davidson

Hello everyone!  I hope you’re having a great week.  The weather has warmed up a bit since Monday, but it looks like Old Man Winter is coming back to visit tomorrow.  I hate cold weather!
It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to speak with you through this column.  I’m grateful that Lee Ann  Murphy and the Neosho Daily News reached out to me.  I’ve dusted off the keyboard – here we go!
It was just over 4 years ago that I had the opportunity to announce that Love’s Travel Stops would be adding a new store at the intersection of Interstate 49 and state highway 86.  That announcement was a “big deal” for Neosho.  Growth is important to any city.  For us, it was the first of several new businesses that would eventually setup shop along the I-49 corridor.  By the spring of 2015, Love’s had its grand opening.  I was there and it was busy!
But as often happens, growth can bring with it unexpected challenges.  It wasn’t long before concerns related to traffic congestion and safety began filling up email boxes and social media. While the City was quick to reach out to MoDOT for help and new traffic studies, our options were somewhat limited given that Hwy 86 is a “state” highway.  Our hope:  MoDOT would see the need and approve capital spending to improve traffic safety at Love’s as well as at the intersection of Gateway (old 71) and Hwy 86.
Unfortunately, Love’s arrived in Neosho about the same time that MoDOT’s funding crisis began to hit the news.  Voters soundly defeated a MoDOT tax increase in August of 2014 and by the time Love’s opened in early 2015, MoDOT was in a pinch.  Throw in a fatality on Hwy 86 near Oak Tree Mart in April of 2015 along with several accidents at Gateway and your city council knew it would likely be up to us to find a solution!
It took over a year and many, many discussions to narrow down our options.  Finally in 2017, we found a solution.  The plan would utilize TIF funds that were collected but never spent on improvements along Hwy 86.  That specific plan was to offer MoDOT a cost-share where the city would offer up to $1.2 million toward the completion of improvements on Hwy 86.  We estimated that match would cover roughly half (50 percent) of the project.  As a council, we thought this was a win-win.  Safety would be improved.  MoDOT would have some of the project paid for by others.  Victory!  Well, that was short lived.
MoDOT was quick to quell our enthusiasm by mandating two conditions:  the City has to adopt the failing TDD roads off Hwy 60 (something total unrelated and not germane to the Hwy 86 discussion) AND the City has to cover any cost overruns on the Love’s/Gateway projects even though MoDOT would be in charge of it.  Politics really makes me shake my heads sometimes!
As of today, I’m not sure where this will ultimately end.  For those of you who have spoken with me in support of these projects, I encourage you to stay vocal.  Contact MoDOT in Joplin or Springfield.  Contact your state elected officials, Rep. Bill Reiboldt and Sen. Ron Richard, in Jefferson City.  The only certainty is this:  accidents and injuries will continue to happen on Hwy 86 around Love’s and Gateway until MoDOT steps up and addresses the issue.  Having a city offer to fund over $1 million toward a MoDOT project is all but unheard of.  The time to act is NOW!  MoDOT has a great opportunity to take the lead and solve this issue once and for all.  We’re standing by to partner with them.  Nothing is more important than keeping our citizens safe.
Until next time:  stay the course, keep the faith, and May God continue to bless Neosho!

Neosho City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Davidson writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.