The Mary City Council met for about three hours Monday during an evening that included a special early session, which ended with a vote to switch health insurance providers, plus an agenda-heavy regular session embracing everything from zoning proposals to the approval of a new $32 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
But the big news came after the governing board adjourned then reconvened for a brief closed meeting, after which City Manager Greg McDanel announced the council had tentatively approved purchase of 1.7 acres of land from the Maryville R-II School District, which will serve as the future site of a new Maryville Public Safety police headquarters and fire station.
The site, located near the intersection of First and Vine at the top of a rise at the west end of a large, grass-covered field, is the former location of Washington School, which served as the district’s high school from 1908 until 1965 and its middle school until 1999. An earlier school building was constructed there in 1883.
McDanel declined to disclose how much the city will pay for the location, saying only that more information about the sale may be available by the next council meeting on Oct. 9.
The proposed MPS headquarters, which carries an estimated cost of around $4 million, is included in the 2018 capital improvements budget, also approved by the council Monday.
Now that a site has been chosen, McDanel said the next step for City Hall staff will be to start preparing a “request for qualifications” document in an effort to attract offers from design-build constructions firms.
“Design-build” is a phrase used to describe projects where architectural-design functions and construction are handled by the same contractor. The process is commonly used for facilities such as hotels, dormitories, retail franchises and public buildings where a common blueprint and similar construction processes are suitable at multiple locations.
McDanel said the city will pay R-II for the real estate from reserves when the deal closes then reimburse itself with proceeds from some type of financing, probably certificates of participation, a form of debt often used to provide up-front cash for major municipal capital projects.
The debt is to be serviced with proceeds from Maryville’s half-cent capital improvements sales tax, which voters renewed last April for another 20 years. The promise of a new police-fire headquarters was one of the main selling points for the tax offered by city officials in the run-up to the election.
On other fronts Monday, the council accepted a proposal from the Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, known as MIRMA, to provide pool-based health insurance for city employees during the upcoming fiscal year.
More than 30 city workers crowded into the council chamber for a discussion about the plan, which the council approved 4-1, the sole no vote coming from Councilwoman Renee Riedel.
In preparing next year’s budget, municipal staff had recommended accepting an offer from the city’s current provider, United Healthcare, that would have significantly raised deductibles, co-pays, out-of-pocket maximums and other charges in exchange for keeping premiums at around $1 million a year.
United’s original bid, which maintained the current level of costs and benefits to workers, would have raised the city’s premiums by nearly 30 percent.
The MIRMA plan, which amounts to self-insurance, keeps employee expenses low but holds the potential for significantly raising the city’s premiums in the event of major claims.
However, should the city have a year with relatively few, or relatively inexpensive, claims, its overall premium cost could decrease somewhat.
Unchanged by the switch to MIRMA is what McDanel described as the city’s “rich” basic insurance package, which pays 100 percent of monthly premiums for employees and 70 percent of premiums for employee families.
Councilman Jerry Riggs, who motioned for approval of the MIRMA offer, nevertheless warned the city employees in attendance that while the deal looked good, it was structured in such a way that could lead to unsustainable costs that might force municipal budget cuts or even layoffs.
“Does anybody really believe that premiums are going down next year?” Riggs asked. “We’re just kicking the can down the road.”
Other business on the council docket Monday included a special use permit request from Joe, Diana and James Richardson of Northwest Equipment Rental, which died on the floor for lack of a motion.
The Richardsons were asking permission to continue operating a construction equipment rental business at 201 East First St., which would required an exception to the existing C-2 general business zoning classification.
On Sept. 13 the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend approval of the special-use request provided there were restrictions on the size of equipment displayed on the property.
Municipal staff, however, argued that the Richardsons’ proposal did not blend with “the character of the neighborhood,” which was described as a “gateway corridor into our community.”
A second property-use item involved a request by MTE Properties to rezone a structure at 213 N. Vine St. from R-4 multi-family to C-2 general business district. The property has been used for several years as a warehouse by MTE Office Center.
While noting that the request may conflict with land-use guidelines set forth in the city’s comprehensive plan, municipal staff recommended approval based on the property’s longstanding history as an MTE facility.
A third land-use request, also approved, came from Jason and Renae Luke, who sought to rezone property at 200 N. Dewey St. from R-4 multi-family residential to C-2 general business.
The building in question formerly housed an auto parts business, a non-conforming use “grandfathered in” due to its existence before current zoning was enacted.
Municipal staff had recommended approval, noting that the comprehensive plan “does allow integration of limited office and convenience commercial within the high density residential area.”
On other fronts, the council passed an ordinance proposing increased procurement spending limits for selected municipal staff. The code revision increases the department head threshold from $1,000 to $2,000 and the city manager threshold from $5,000 to $10,000.
Additional business included:
• Passage of a proposed ordinance to amend the constitution of the Mozingo Lake Advisory Board so that it consists of five members appointed by the City Council, two members appointed by the Maryville R-II School District and two members appointed by the Nodaway County Commission.
The City Council would still have to ratify all those nominated to serve.
• Passage of an ordinance implementing a 10-percent increase for cabin rentals at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park along with a reduction in reserved recreational vehicle campsite fees from $35 a day ($25 off-season) to $25 a day ($18 off-season) with a one-time $10 reservation fee.
• Approval of a $54,442 contract with locally based DS Painting for painting and floor-coating work at the Mozingo Lake conference center.
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