Should the City abandon a street so a church can provide safer access to a proposed new church building? That was a question debated at the Oct. 15 Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting.
Immaculate Conception Church and School have requested that the block of Jefferson Street that runs between the church and school be abandoned by the City.
Al Stoverink explained to the Board in study session that the request originated as the Diocese made plans to build a new Catholic church to replace the one on the corner of Jefferson and Highway 61 (Hope St.).
“To have safe, ample ADA parking, it was important to vacate the street and have a unified campus,” he said. “This is something we need to do, if we build that church or not.”
Stoverink claimed there were safety issues as school children cross the street daily for Mass and other activities that occur in the church building.
There is currently only one ADA parking spot next to the church building. Others who wish to use handicapped parking spaces must park in the school lot across Jefferson Street.
Many parishioners use the school parking lot, so families with toddlers — and often elderly with canes and walkers — must cross the street, causing traffic to back up on Jefferson Street, and out onto Highway 61.
Stoverink reminded the Board that the City vacated a section of Madison and Ohio streets when the school was originally built, so there was a precedent.
“I don’t know if we should be in the business of vacating streets for private expansion,” said Alderman David Reiminger. “There will be more [requests] if this is allowed to continue. I don’t think the City should hand over a street to provide handicapped parking.”
Alderman Wanda Young mentioned that the parking lot north of the church could be used for handicapped parking and ramps could be built. School children could cross the street at a stop sign down the hill from the church, away from Highway 61, to alleviate safety concerns. Alternative solutions such as these would not require the abandoning of Jefferson Street.
Alderman Larry Cunning-ham said he had a problem with allowing church people to use Jefferson Street to drop off students at the school or disabled people at the church, but the general public will be prohibited from using that same street.
Mayor Dwain Hahs reminded the Board that a public hearing was held on the street abandonment and no one spoke in opposition. Abandoning the street also has the blessing of traffic consultants because it will improve traffic flow on Highway 61 by eliminating left turns onto Jefferson Street.
Construction on the new church is expected to begin in about two years, Stoverink said. There will be a year of fundraising followed by nine months to a year of the design process.
In other action:
• MAGNET: The Board extended the contract with Cape Girardeau Area MAGNET and appointed Mayor Hahs to serve as the City’s representative of the MAGNET Board of Directors.
• Election set: The Board set a general election for Tuesday, April 2, to fill the offices of mayor and four aldermen (Mayor Hahs; Wanda Young, Ward 1; David Hitt, Ward 2; Katy Liley, Ward 3; and Tom Kimbel, Ward 4). Each of these positions will be for two-year terms.
In addition, there will be an election for the Ward 1 seat vacated by Phil Penzel and currently held by Paul Sander, who was appointed by Hahs. This seat will be for a one-year term.
• Public hearings set: The Board set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, to consider the rezoning of 1506 S. Farmington Road (that portion that is within city limits) from R-1 (single family residential) and I-2 (heavy industrial) to C-2 (general commercial, as submitted by First General Baptist Church (Connection Point Church).
A second public hearing was set for the same time to consider a special use permit for a shipping container to be used as long-term storage in a C-2 (general commercial) district at 1210 Greenway Drive, as submitted by BKR Commercial, LLC.
• Meridian break: the Board a approved a $60,000 change order and added 32 days of contract time to Fronabarger Concreters, Inc. of Oak Ridge, relative to the East Main Commercial Entrances and Median Break Project on East Main Street, just west of I-55.
• Water well request: In study session, the Board discussed a request from the Missouri Baptist Convention to drill a well at the historical Old Bethel Church, so rest-rooms and a water fountain could be built near the parking area.
It would cost a little under $15,000 to drill a well, while connecting this remote location to the nearest city water main would cost between $75,000 and $100,000.
The well will be only 400 feet deep, and should not affect the aquifer that city water is taken from, as city wells are 1,500-2,000 feet deep.
The original Old Bethel Church, built in 1806, was the first Baptist church west of the Mississippi. The lumber from the original church was later used to build a barn. In recent history, that barn was dismantled and the lumber was used to rebuild the church at its original location. The church is not used a lot at this time. Occasionally it is used for weddings and photo shoots.
The request is being made so ADA-accessible restrooms with potable drinking water can be constructed in the parking area as a convenience to visitors.
Normally, the City frowns on residents drilling private wells instead of connecting to city water.
“Under normal circumstances, I’m not for it,” said Alderman Paul Sander. “But this is not normal circumstances.”
The matter will come back for a vote Nov. 5.
• Power line: A 34.5 kV electric transmission line will be built from the west substation to the power plant substation. Construction is expected to begin by the end of next year.
• Shawnee and East Main: In study session, the Board discussed a roundabout for East Main and Shawnee Boulevard. It will cost $76,200 for engineering services to plan the project up to the bidding process. The entire project is expected to cost $762,000 (not counting the costs of acquiring property).
The apartments on the northwest corner may be affected by the roundabout. There is vacant land on the east side of Shawnee, and it is expected that the roundabout will be shifted to the east to make the impact on the west side minimal.