Officials with the proposed Agribusiness Expo Center say they are moving one step closer to grading roads as part of infrastructure plans preparatory to building the facility.
A $1.95 million capital campaign is set to kick off this afternoon at the organization’s offices Downtown. Its two goals pinpoint raising a necessary $950,000 to pay for half of the grading project while simultaneously seeking $1 million for retiring existing debt.
Gerald Sprong, who serves as Ag Expo’s president and executive director, said he and his colleagues have successfully survived a series of challenges over the past three to four years, including unanticipated soil conditions that delayed construction of a U.S. Highway 36 interchange geared to ferry visitors from the four-state area to a complex spread over 145 acres.
“Finally, all of that’s been cleared up,” Sprong told News-Press NOW on Monday, leading to the ability to start the capital campaign. He called the campaign and the grading the next main steps ahead of construction. A conclusion to the campaign will serve as a signal to begin the road grading, he added.
The fundraising is one element to an overall equation, he stated.
“We are able to get significant grants. But we have to raise half of the cost of the grading process first,” Sprong said. “We are getting closer to constructing a venue where we can showcase our innovation, youth development and our agricultural roots. ... It’s a project that will have a long-lasting impact on our youth, our businesses and our region as a whole.”
Plans include an arena, expo hall, commercial retail area, recreational vehicle park, livestock pavilions and a life science park.
In 2010, youth in 4-H programs spawned the idea of such a venue centered on agriculture, allowing them to host contests, highlight their projects and develop leadership skills.
Besides the interchange, the center has landed a $4.5 million economic development grant and a contract to extend interior roads. A $1.2 million investment has been secured for engineering services, acquiring rights of way and legal costs.
Sprong said the center is forecast to create an annual economic impact of $54 million.
Expo officials plan to meet with the Buchanan County Commission on Wednesday morning to discuss real estate issues related to the center.
The St. Joseph School District Board of Education meeting took a bit of a backseat to a work session that took place shortly thereafter.
The work session focused primarily on data brought before the board by representatives from DLR, the company responsible for the district’s facilities study currently taking place.
The data, which was formed using walkthroughs, surveys and demographic information among other factors, noted that the majority of buildings within the district are well over 50 years old. Furthermore, many of those buildings are falling short in a number of different areas that DLR has identified, from site and interior issues to problems with electrical and security systems.
For Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl, the surprises were relatively few.
“We have a lot of old buildings, many that don’t necessarily meet the needs of our students today,” he said. “Not only from the facilities studies, but from the survey itself, I think people in the community feel the same way.”
With all of the buildings in the school district, an optimum capacity would be around 12,300 students. Currently, the district sits below 11,000, and that number is expected to drop in the next 10 years to just above 10,000.
What followed were a number of slides over the projector in the St. Joseph School Board Conference Room that read “For Discussion Purposes Only,” with each offering various options on how to maximize the district’s efforts through closing and reprioritizing particular schools.
But the options didn’t just include closing certain elementary or high schools down completely. One, for example, involved making Benton High School a middle school while closing down other buildings. The idea of one central high school also was planned, and the representatives from DLR even took the historical significance of a building into account when formulating their options.
“It’s a fairly straightforward approach that they started with in order to lay out some ideas or thoughts,” Van Zyl said. “I wouldn’t say it was surprising, I think it could be (shocking) to some other folks if they were to take a look at it and think that that was the plan, but again, this was just some discussion-starters. This is not the plan of how things are going to work. It’s just an opportunity for us to get more thoughts and ideas on where we want to go.”
And while Van Zyl said the data is incredibly important in any decision-making process, he understands the emotional attachments the community will have for each school and said the board needs to understand what the they ultimately will support.
“I think the biggest thing is to say thanks so far for what they’ve done,” Van Zyl said of the community. “You know, they’ve had a lot of involvement in those surveys, but the work’s not done. We really need them to continue to be involved and engaged, and also realize that we haven’t made a decision and that we are open and that we are going to try to listen to what’s going to be said and make the best decision that we can for all of the students throughout our whole community.”
The next step in the process for DLR will focus on community meetings and small group discussions as well as another online survey for interested parties.
The St. Joseph City Council approved funding for four emergency repair projects that were recently completed involving street and sewer infrastructure.
The projects totaled around $158,000, with the most expensive being a $50,000 fix to a sludge line at the city’s Water Protection Facility.
Director of Public Works Andy Clements said the line failed and there was concern about destabilizing additional pipes at the plant.
He said rising water levels earlier this year likely caused underground water level to rise, damaging the pipe.
“We think that it’s likely that that pipe floated and either the pipe broke as a result of that or a joint failed,” Clements said.
Leaks caused land under a building at the plant to slide away, but the raised building was not damaged.
The collapse of an old brick sewer under Poulin Street caused a 30 foot by 15 foot by 14 foot void under the roadway. The street collapsed and had to be repaired for just over $45,000.
Two projects to repair creek embankments along the south edge of Karnes Road and along the south edge of Jersey Street were completed in order to stabilize and protect the roads. They cost a total of nearly $63,000.
The banks were damaged by heavy rain and, in the case of the project near Jersey Street, a sewer main under the street was almost exposed.
Clements said this could have led to an expensive, major disaster if the pipe would have broken.
He said emergency repairs are common, but are becoming less so over the years as inspections are increased. He said emergencies will always happen and the best way to avoid them is to pay attention to city infrastructure.
“Our goal is to not have emergencies, but with the soil type we have and the system size we have, every community has them,” Clements said. “The best thing you can do is try to proactively address it and try to cut your losses when you find out about it.”
Sprague Excavating Co. completed all of the repairs and was paid through a master agreement for street and sewer maintenance.
Chic in the shade
Umbrellas and awnings are great ways to relax in summer’s heat.
Details on Page B4
Brothers not found
Clinton County Sheriff updates ongoing case of missing Diemel brothers.
Details on Page B1
The Kansas City Chiefs camp fan attendance record has been a hot topic of conversation over the first couple of days of the event.
The 15,000 fans attending this year’s first weekend was record-breaking. Among those supporting the team was Sharon McCray. Originally from St. Joseph, she is a die-hard Chiefs fan despite currently living in the home of the team’s AFC West rival, the Denver Broncos. She was sporting a 2010 Chiefs training camp shirt Monday, and she said she hasn’t missed one camp since then.
“I have been a Chiefs fan for 50 years, it just becomes a part of your blood,” McCray said.
McCray highlighted that she was part of the very first freshman class at Missouri Western, home of the training camp, after the school became a four-year college.
“When I started here there were three buildings,” McCray said. “And I had to come out with some of my friends and inspect this campus, because there were no trees. Nothing but hills and wind.”
McCray pointed out that her freshman year was in the fall of 1969. Interestingly enough, the Kansas City Chiefs won their third AFL Championship in that same year.
Living in the Rocky Mountains, it can be hard to be a fan of the red and gold. McCray said she does not shy away from boasting of her love for the Chiefs.
“I have been living in Denver for 40 years, but the Chiefs are my team,” McCray said. “I love hassling the Denver people. I have a big old Chiefs sticker on my car. They hate it. I love it.”
Most jerseys you see at training camp highlight the reigning NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes II or all-star tight end Travis Kelce. But McCray has a different favorite player, and a good reason for it as well.
“Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the guy is a physician. Who does medical school in the offseason? Who does that? You have to respect that,” McCray said.