Split votes on city hall study, liquor

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

By DONNA FARLEY

Staff Writer

In separate split votes, the Poplar Bluff City Council selected a company Monday to review options for repairing or moving city hall and authorized a permit to sell liquor at a new downtown restaurant.

Both votes passed 5-1.

Council member Ed DeGaris voted against a motion accepting architectural firm Dille and Traxel of Poplar Bluff to conduct a feasibility study for city hall.

He also asked during the meeting if the study would still be accurate if the city has to wait several years before it can afford to take action on the results.

City manager Heath Kaplan said he expects the study to be completed in 2015, with construction set to begin by the spring of 2016.

DeGaris said following the meeting he believed the council should have accepted the company preferred by the committee asked to review proposals submitted by interested companies.

A seven-member committee, which included city employees, recommended 4-3 hiring GHN, a Springfield, Mo.-based firm.

Municipal Utilities worker and committee member Sandra Walker said Monday the majority of the committee felt GHN had the greatest focus on looking at all of the options, including renovating the current city hall.

"We said what we really want here is a whole picture," Walker said, adding they also considered keeping city money with city companies.

Both companies have paired with local engineering firms for the work.

City manager Heath Kaplan said the work will be a 50/50 partnership between the architectural firm and engineering services.

Council member Jack Rushin said he was concerned about focusing on renovating the current city hall when two previous assessments had found it would not be cost effective.

He left that option on the table for the committee, Kaplan explained, because a true feasibility study needs to be comprehensive. Kaplan admitted he also would be surprised if the study found it would be efficient to renovate the current location.

In response to questions raised by council and committee members, Ben Traxel explained the Dille and Traxel office sits about 200 yards from the city boundary. The company does have a Cape Girardeau office as well, but it is not open yet, Traxel said.

The company also will evaluate the current building, he said. They have not been asked to only focus on the design of a new building, according to Traxel.

Both proposals had an element of local and non-local companies, Kaplan said.

Billy Cobb of Smith & Company, which would have paired with GHN, said the company is aware this was ultimately a council decision and it looks forward to working with the city in the future.

Restaurant

Council member Betty Absheer was the sole vote against a permit to sell liquor by the drink at Frontier House, a restaurant planned for 506 Vine St.

Absheer said later there are rehabilitation programs operating downtown to help those struggling with alcohol addiction and the city should do more to help those programs. Absheer acknowledged there are other locations downtown that sell alcohol, but said she didn't think the city should put more temptation there.

"I have nothing against the gentleman who applied," Absheer said, adding she thinks his proposal is unique.

The application was made by Brian White of Poplar Bluff. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, offering micro brews and live music, as well as meals.

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