A policy for opening previously closed records will soon be enacted in Neosho, after city council this week provided approval of the format to do so.

A policy for opening previously closed records will soon be enacted in Neosho, after city council this week provided approval of the format to do so.

Nora Houdyshell, city clerk, was given the go-ahead to draft a resolution that will provide her guidance on opening closed records.

“This resolution is just stating that if at any time, per Sunshine Law, that the council does not take it upon themselves to approve closed session minutes to go into open to where the public can see them, then I will go through the records myself and sit down with the city attorney and make sure that nothing was missed; and if they missed like a real estate transaction for example, then I would bring it to them in the form of this resolution and ask for permission to go ahead and put those in open session,” Houdyshell said.

The council approved the format by consensus, and Houdyshell said she will come up with a resolution on an annual basis to ask council approval to open records that had remained closed in the previous year.

Houdyshell said this action was prompted by many Sunshine requests she received because of many questions about the Transportation Development District closed session minutes. She said the Sunshine Law puts no policy in place for the city clerk to know if the council agrees to open certain closed records. Houdyshell said a check of many Southwest Missouri cities found they do not open closed session minutes to the public; “So this is something that has never been done before here on a regular basis.” She said she felt it important to put a policy in place so the city can move forward on opening closed records that the public has a right to see.

Houdyshell said, “It’s a great way to be transparent.”

The council gave second and third reading approval to a bill to amend Chapter 405 of the code of ordinances, regarding height regulations for signage; though councilman David Ruth voted against the measure. Ruth questioned the 10-foot setback required under the amendment, and said, “This will be back before the council;” and added that this is the third time council has amended the ordinance.

Steven Hays, city attorney, said the amendment doesn’t change the city sign ordinance, its effect is only within a half mile of an interstate highway. As the Interstate 49 area develops, Hays said, “Signs from vendors and retail establishments need to be at an elevated distance that Neosho really hasn’t seen in the past.”

Hays said this became an issue as Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores prepares to open a new establishment, and at first thought 90 feet would be tall enough. Hays said that height jumped to 130, and after the city approved a limit of 140 feet, Love’s determined they needed to go to 170 feet. Hays said it was then determined there should be no height limit for signs within a half mile of the interstate, “But that brought a new problem;” he said, “and that is, these signs are huge.”

Hays said it was learned after the previous ordinance was put into place that winds are stronger, and more constant at 100 feet elevation; and they get even stronger at higher elevations. He said the 10-feet set back is for safety; providing some assurance that if a large sign were to fail, it would not fall onto a roadway.

The council also gave final approval to a bill to declare certain vehicles and equipment from the public works department as surplus, and setting a city auction planned for April 12, 2014 as the method for its disposal. Over the past several months, council has approved the declaration of property as surplus from all city departments. Wes Franklin, public relations and events coordinator, said the city has scheduled a public auction to dispose of that property for next Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. in the parks department facility, 215 Wheeler St.

First reading approval was provided on a bill to amend the code enforcement budget for the current fiscal year. Dana Daniel, economic development director, explained that the department needs $12,000 in additional funding, “For the purpose of demolition, and hauling off that demolition, for some structures that either have been condemned or we’re looking to condemn.” Daniel said three properties have not been maintained and the property owners have shown no intent to address the issue. He said there is a legal process to condemn the property and to address it afterwards.

“The cost is initially absorbed by the city, but we do put liens on the property to try to recoup the cost if the property is ever sold,” Daniel said.

The council also approved actions to close out two grants. Daniel explained that documentation must be submitted to close a CDBG grant that funded the acquisition, asbestos abatement and demolition of properties in the 200 block of E. Spring St. He said documentation must be submitted to close out a grant agreement with the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council, as the city acted as the “pass-through” on the grant related to the Joplin tornado, as Crowder College served as a staging area for mobile homes.

Providing $2,000 from the hotel/motel fund for the 2nd annual Roughrider Scholarship Rodeo was also approved. Franklin said the Crowder College Agriculture department received $2,000 last year for their first such event that brought about 2,000 people to Neosho. Franklin said they expect to bring in even more people with two events this year, as in addition to the Aug. 15 and 16 rodeo, a bull-riding event has been added to the venue, scheduled for May 30.

The council also approved the annual maintenance agreement with Global Software that Lt. David Kennedy said creates police reports and houses arrest citation logs.

Four bids were approved. Tatum Motor Company of Anderson was awarded a $17,000 bid for two mowers for the parks department; which also will receive a new trailer by council approval of the low bid of $3,450 from Frye Farms of Seneca. Two bids approved for the public works department include the acquisition of a John Deere tractor for $18,995 from Murphy Farm & Lawn of Anderson, and of two aerators from Aerator Solutions of Illinois for $16,532.

City Manager Troy Royer reported that he has been informed by the chamber of commerce and Neosho Area Business And Industrial Foundation, Inc. that NABIFI will again fund the efforts of Teen Challenge of the 4 States, whose students will maintain seven city parking lots from May 1 through Oct. 31.

Franklin asked for some direction from council, explaining that someone wants to do some metal detecting in Big Spring Park, and anything of historical value that they would find would be turned over to the city. He said, “We do not have a policy.”

Hays proposed drafting a release to allow people to do such treasure hunting, with the stipulation that anything of historical value that was found would be turned over. Hays asked direction to draft a release so that people who wish to make historic finds could do that.

He said, “It would have to ensure they get the holes they dig filled.”

Hays said the city could be cheated, but most people would do right.

Councilman Tom Workman said city officials were leery of people digging down in Big Spring Park back when he was parks superintendent, but they did allow it on the ridge. Workman said they weren’t so stringent about Morse Park.

Franklin said the party that asked him did plan to search on the ridge in Big Spring Park. Franklin concluded, “I respect that they did ask. Nothing in our ordinance restricts that.”