On Tuesday, the Neosho City Council voted to approve a contract for 4.85 miles of Phase 1 of the planned bicycle trails to be built in Morse Park. The contract with Rogue Trails of Rogers, Arkansas, offered a bid for both the phase one trail and a bicycle playground for the amount of $265,152.00. Rogue Trails submitted the sole acceptable bid for the work. The single track mountain bike trail will be built on the hillsides of the eastern portion of the park and the playground will be located near the Lampo Center. Work on the project will start in the near future.

A contract with Above Par Fencing in the amount of $16,500, the low bid received, to remove flood debris, invasive plant species, and brush along Hickory Creek within Morse Park was also accepted by the council.

Council voted for Neosho City attorney Steve Hays to draft a contract for an agreement with the Neosho Freeman Family Y to take over operation of the Neosho Municipal Pool starting with the summer season. A proposal was submitted to the city by Ben Coffey, CEO at the Y. If the contract is approved by both the Y and the City of Neosho, the Y would operate the pool as well as provide services that would include swimming lessons, group exercise, birthday parties, and a free summer lunch program to youth age 18 and younger Monday through Friday during the summer. In addition, the Y would purchase concession items and operate the concession stand, cover electricity cost for lights and energy, take on chemical costs, chemical management and ordering of chemicals, train and provide staff including certified lifeguards and provide insurance to operate the pool.

Once a contract has been drafted, it will be presented to both council and the local Y.

John Howsmon, who with his wife, Suzi, own Sam's Cellar in downtown Neosho, approached council seeking permission to place four tables and a barricade along the southwestern edge of the business in two parking spaces. He would like to do this in order to reopen his businesses.

"We just want to be back in business," Howsmon noted. "I'm looking for a lifeline for the business we've spent 14 years of our life on."

Prior to Governor Parson declaring the statewide stay at home order, Howsmon said the restaurant seated at customers at every other table and every third seat at the bar. The limitations of social distancing prompted Howsmon to close the doors.

Howsmon told the council that he wasn't seeking immediate approval but wanted to plan for the time when business returns usual."It's an on ramp to get back to some kind of normalcy," he said.

City Attorney Steven Hays said that while restaurants are classified as nonessential businesses, the governor's order does not bar such businesses from operating. They must , however, comply with social distancing and mandated guidelines,, "It would have to be supervised pretty well," Hays said.

The council noted that they couldn't appear to play favorites and suggested that instead of approving or denying Howsmon's request, that they would come up with guidelines that could be utilized by any local restaurants that might wish to do something similar. Since the council won't meet again until May, the guidelines will be drafted and considered next month. By then, governor will have determined whether or not to extend the current April 24 date for the stay-at-home order.

In other business, the council discussed whether or not the annual Bluegrass and BBQ festival held each August at Big Spring Park is viable this year. Noting that last year the festival lost about $7,000 and that no one knows how long the COVID-19 situation will linger, Mayor Pro Tem Carmin Allen said, "We're in uncharted territory but it bothers me to lose $7-8,000.:

The council decided to reach out to some of the bands who have performed in the past and see whether or not they are available, then make a decision about the festival at a later date. Allen also indicated that the fireworks for the annual Celebrate Neosho event held the last Saturday in June have already been purchased so if nothing more, there will be fireworks.

The council will next meet on Tuesday, May 5. The April meeting was held via video conferencing and was available to view online. Residents also had the option to listen to the meeting by phone.

Mayor William Doubek was absent from the meeting.