Lee’s Summit heads toward April 2014 election on U.S. 50 and Missouri 291 interchange

Lee’s Summit Journal – Russ Pulley

Lee’s Summit is poised to try for another no-tax-increase bond issue, in April 2014, this time for $10 million to rebuild the U.S. 50 and Missouri 291 South interchange.

The City Council on Nov. 7 by consensus directed staff to prepare an ordinance calling for the election. Actually putting the issue on the ballot will require a future council vote.

 

The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the Jefferson Street Bridge overpass, but the city wants an upgrade for that interchange and state officials contend they don’t have money for that.

Area business leaders say traffic congestion in that area is drag on redeveloping the former sits of Pfizer, Calmar and Adesa auto auction, so the city and state have worked out a proposed partnership.

The city would pay for the estimated $10 million project, and apply for $5 million in matching funds from the state, a 50-50 split on costs.

Council member Ed Cockrell said putting the bond issue before voters enhances the odds of a successful application.

“Cities that can show front money, get money,” Cockrell said.

He said the city should commit to voters that if the city raises $10 million for the interchange, and reimbursed $5 million from MoDOT, then the city would use its remaining $5 million to for more matching money on other transportation projects.

The council heard a report on financing alternatives, such as Community Improvement Districts, but city staff said those weren’t feasible. Such a district would include getting approval from a majority of many as 200 property owners, with a substantial tax increase.

Other council members had varied reactions, but supported the general plan.

Councilmen Bob Johnson and Derek Holland said they think the city should at least try to get partnership from some of the property owners closer to the interchange.

Johnson asked if there was consideration of using a CID for a smaller share.

“I really think we ought to have private-public partnerships,” Johnson said.

There was brief discussion of creating a CID, but Cockrell dampened that by noting that could be a long, long process.

Brian Whitley asked whether MoDOT would be motivated to give Lee’s Summit $5 million if it is putting up money to fund the interchange.

Dena Mezger, deputy director of Public Works, said she feels confident MoDOT would approve the match, since they own the interchange.

“For them to walk away from their system that needs improvement, I don’t think they would do that,” she said.

Council member Kathy Hofmann said rebuilding the interchange is necessary for any economic development to occur in that area.

“It’s a nightmare, day and night,” Hofmann said. “It will pay for itself when we get it done.”