Before a room packed with American Legion members, the Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen gave a head nod to keep Homecomers 2020 in the same location Uptown and keep it the same length (five days) as it was in 2019.
The Jackson American Legion Post 158 sponsors Homecomers, which is its biggest fundraiser of the year. It must get permission from the Board of Aldermen each year to close portions of Main, Court, Barton and High streets to set up carnival rides and food booths.
This past year, several merchants on High Street complained that the street closure during Homecomers hurts their business. High Street remains closed all day during Homecomers, even though the activities don’t start until 6 p.m.
To placate the merchants, the Board of Aldermen considered moving Homecomers south, past the 100 block of High Street (leaving that block open to traffic) or shortening the event, possibly to three days (which was requested by the merchants).
Alderman David Hitt, an American Legion member, listed many of the projects that American Legion funds. Reducing the number of days would reduce funds raised, especially if there was bad weather one or two nights.
“If the Uptown merchants would stay open evenings, they would benefit from Homecomers like everyone else,” he said.
“I agree with Dave,” said Alderman Tommy Kimbel. The Elks also raise funds during Homecomers, which allows that organization to give away two $2,000 scholarships, he added.
Alderman Joe Bob Baker said he was “definitely against” shortening Homecomers.
Alderman Dave Reiminger was opposed to moving Homecomers a block south. The City has all the electrical and water connections available at the current location. If Homecomers moved, all those connections would have to be moved.
“Moving is a dead issue,” Hitt responded. It would require a beer garden to be placed next to a Baptist Church building, and the church would not allow that.
Alderman Katy Liley said she could see both sides of the issue and asked how much traffic is impacted.
“All events are an impact to traffic,” replied City Administrator Jim Roach. But the events don’t create traffic hazards. There is no data to show Homecomers causes more accidents, he said.
Alderman Larry Cunning-ham said he was torn between leaving it the same and shortening it by one day. But after looking at the history of Homecomers and talking to residents who told him to leave it as it was, he now opposed any change.
Alderman Wanda Young reminded the Board that it’s not just the American Legion that benefits from Homecomers. “It helps various organizations, and it helps the entire population,” she said.
Alderman Paul Sander stated that the carnival operator needs to be more receptive to ideas that the merchants come up with. There had been an agreement this past year for the carnival to remain open during the day on Saturday, but the carnival operator unilaterally decided against it.
Mayor Dwain Hahs encouraged the American Legion to reach out to the Uptown merchants and try to help make it a more positive experience for all. “Sit down and make this a plus for all,” he said.
With that direction from the Board, City staff is prepared to approve next year’s Homecomers application when it is submitted.
• Insurance: At this time, the City and its employees will see no increase in their health insurance premiums for next year, it was reported in study session.
• New pavilion: Four bids were received to replace Pavilion No. 5 in City Park that was destroyed by a wind storm last summer. The low bid was $36,000 for an all-metal structure. Insurance will pay $20,000, and the Optimists plan to pay for the rest. The matter will come before the Board for approval at a future meeting.
• Changes to Main Street: City staff looked at the issue of speeding on East Main Street and found it not to be a problem. The average speed of vehicles west of Oak Hill Road is 45, the same as the speed limit. East of Oak Hill, the speed limit decreases to 35, but there have been no complaints of speeding there.
The City will make East Main Street a designated no-truck route. This will prevent trucks from using East Main Street as they travel through the area, but will not affect trucks making local deliveries.
It is suspected that trucks may want to use East Main Street as a detour during construction of the diverging Diamond intersection at I-55 and U.S. Hwy. 61 (Exit 99). This will help prevent that from happening.
The City may choose to keep East Main as a no-truck route after the diverging diamond intersection is completed.
“We’ll look at it again after the diverging diamond,” Hahs said.
• Landlocked properties: City Attorney Tom Ludwig proposed an ordinance that will allow two properties on the northern edge of the city that have no access to city streets to be developed if they have access to other public right-of-ways.
This ordinance, if approved at a future meeting, will take the City out of the equation; if property owners can show they have public access (in this case, from a development that is outside of city limits), they can develop their properties. Problems that may arise as to street ownership or maintenance will be up to the property owners to solve. “It’s the developer’s issue to tie up loose ends,” Ludwig said. “The City is waiving the requirement [for these two properties] to have access to a city street.”
• Cell tower: No one spoke at a public hearing and the Board approved a special use permit for a new property owner for an existing cell tower at 2705 Hilltop Dr. (Special use permits do not automatically transfer when properties are sold.)
• Roundabout: The Board accepted the bid of $738,999.21 and authorized a contract with Lappe Cement Finishing, Inc. of Friedheim for the roundabout at East Main Street and Shawnee Boulevard.
• Electrical improvements: The Board approved a $44,000 task order to Blakely & Associates Consulting Engineers Inc., of Chillicothe, for work on upgrades to the power plant SCADA system.
The Board also accepted a bid of $15,356 and awarded a contract to Nip Kelley Equipment Co., of Cape Girardeau, for construction of a work pad needed to make electrical improvements.
• Asphalt: The Board agreed to authorize an additional $70,000 of asphalt work on Greensferry Road because asphalt work there had come in more than $100,000 under budget.