Maps of the Neosho Transportation Development District's proposed road improvement plans were put on display Thursday evening at a public informational meeting held at the Neosho Middle School.

Maps of the Neosho Transportation Development District's proposed road improvement plans were put on display Thursday evening at a public informational meeting held at the Neosho Middle School.

Approximately 60 area residents attended the meeting to learn more about what the project entails.

Ray Stipp, board chairman, said the cost estimate for the total base project comes to $6.9 million.

The district stretches from Waldo Hatler Drive to Industrial Drive, and from Kodiak Road to just east of Laramie Lane.

The proposed projects include intersection improvements, the addition of outer roads along Highway 60, and traffic lights.

"The purposes of the project to begin with are at least three-fold, one is safety, another is to relieve traffic congestion and then the third would be development of retail and service opportunities," Stipp said.

A half-cent sales tax has been collected within the TDD's boundaries since January 2012, and is scheduled to sunset after 20 years.

While the TDD board members say they expect the enhancements to lead to retail development in that area, consultant Darrell Gross said the anticipated sales tax funding for the project is based solely on what is collected from existing businesses.

"We're not building on any what-if scenarios," Gross said.

The TDD projects are also partially funded by a $2.4 million cost-share agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

"MoDOT has indicated that, you have local traffic and you have through-traffic, and by the outer roads that were suggested you can make more of the local traffic local and allow the through traffic to be through traffic," Stipp said.

"That's kind of a trade-off, instead of having to four-lane 60 Highway, you can do that and alleviate some of the traffic."

Retail development may be one of the driving forces for the project, though Stipp also noted the safety improvements that could be made near the Neosho Middle School, located on Hale McGinty Drive.

While the TDD has planned to extend that road on past the school, where it currently dead ends, the school district has also come up with plans to help relieve the stacking of traffic in that area.

Tim Crawley, Neosho R-5 assistant superintendent of business and finance, presented the district's plans to fund the extension of the middle school parking lot, creating an additional 56 parking spaces in front of the school.

The parking lot's entrance would also be moved in an attempt to help alleviate the traffic holdup that is created when school lets out each day.

Crawley said only a rough cost estimate had been given for the project so far, that came to $399,000.

"We've got a significant traffic problem," Crawley said. "The goal is just to provide a safer environment for the kids and a little bit better traffic control."

Mike and Terri Edens live near the Neosho Middle School and attended Thursday evening's meetings to hear more about the potential traffic improvements in their neighborhood.

"We deal with the school traffic a lot," Terri Edens said. "The parents are courteous and keep it going but there are certain times of the day when it's a very big challenge getting to and from our home."

While construction has begun on the first of the TDD projects, with work on the traffic light at Kodiak Road and Highway 60 kicking off earlier this month, all other projects have been stalled.

Stipp said work on the remaining projects has been delayed pending the Neosho City Council's decision on whether or not to appeal the outcome of their legal challenge of the TDD.

Dan Salisbury, MoDOT engineer, said there is also still some engineering left to do on some of the projects.
He said once the project moves forward the construction will all be done at once in one construction season, which typically runs spring and summer.

"Right now we're not doing anything," Salisbury said. "It's kind of depending on what time of year we do get a green light, then we can set a schedule. We kind of need the whole community to come together."

The city filed a petition in August 2012 in Newton County Circuit Court to challenge the validity of the TDD, based on the state statute it was formed under paired with who serves as voters within the district.

Newton County Judge Kevin Selby ruled against the city's petition in a Nov. 30 court appearance, saying that his ruling was based on the doctrine of laches, meaning the city brought their complaint forward too late.

While the city has not announced a decision as to whether or not to appeal Selby's ruling, city attorney Steve Hays filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 17.

However, Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson said that move was procedural, meant to protect the city's right to appeal if they decide to do so.

Council members were scheduled to discuss a potential appeal Wednesday morning, though those talks were stalled after the last-minute receipt of a third-party letter described by council members as a "game-changer."

Davidson did not share the contents of that letter, though he said it did relate to the TDD.

The council is expected to discuss that further Tuesday in closed session.