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Krug Park, Hyde Parks getting ready for holidays

Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but crews of the St. Joseph Parks, Recreations & Civic Facilities Department have been preparing Krug and Hyde parks for the holidays since October.

It’s hard work, according to Assistant Parks Director Jeff Atkins, but also one of the most enjoyable jobs his staff gets to do.

“We enjoy days like this where the sun comes out, really makes it a lot more pleasant for the guys to get working, but even if it’s snowing, they have to get it done,” Atkins said on Thursday afternoon. “This is one of the favorite things they do all year.”

Come Nov. 29, Krug Park officially turns into Holiday Park and Hyde Park becomes the South Pole. Preparations take at least six weeks, not counting the time it takes to check over all displays, light bulbs and sockets before they get taken out into the field.

“We have people working right up to the day we turn them on,” Atkins said. “Luckily, in 38 years, we’ve always been ready.”

Holiday Park first opened in 1981 thanks to an initiative by the Optimists Club. Each year, volunteers collect voluntary donations from around 90,000 visitors to sustain the park.

Many of the displays have been part of the park since the very beginning and some are even older. The Santa and flying reindeer display originally adorned the Westab Building starting in the 1950s. The building later became known as the Mead Building and is now home to the Mitchel Park Plaza lofts.

“We treat (the display) with kid gloves every time we move it around because it means so much to the citizens of St. Joe,” Atkins said. “We do everything we can to protect the integrity of it.”

As Holiday Park nears its 40th anniversary next year, crews make constant improvements to the setup. In previous years, incandescent lights have been switched out for LED lights and this year, the Parks Department is adding a concrete base for the jumping fish display in order to give it a more stable footing.

“The easier it is to go up and down with them, the less damage potentially we can do to the displays,” Atkins said.

In future years, existing displays could be replaced by newer ones. The Optimists Club bought a $20,000 plasma cutter table that allows the operator to create metal replicas of existing displays.

“It’ll be a while until we’re ready to start doing that,” Atkins said.

Lighting ceremonies will kick off the holiday season on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at Holiday Park and 7 p.m. at the South Pole. Hot chocolate, cookies and Santa Claus will be ready for visitors at both locations.

“You can actually make both of them if you want to, and I encourage people to do it,” Atkins said. “It’s a lot of fun.”


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United Way celebrates end of 2019 campaign

Members from all across the St. Joseph community gathered Thursday night to celebrate the wrap-up of the 2019 United Way Campaign.

The celebration took place at Moila Golf Club to recognize all of the donors and volunteers who contributed to the $2.9 million goal. They ended up finishing with a little over $2.6 million.

The campaign kicked off on Sept. 5 chaired by Pat and Terri Modlin, volunteers and local business owners.

Kylee Strough, United Way president, was grateful for everything the community contributed and knows they’ll be able to complete a lot of work with the money.

“It’s been amazing these past couple of months witnessing the good in our community and the people who just really care,” Strough said.

Strough said that American Family, Nestle Purina, Altec and Mosaic were huge donors that together contributed over $1 million.

“They’re some of the largest employers in town, but their employees are some of the most generous as well,” Strough said.

The United Way has thousands of donors throughout the community who contributed.

Multiple donors contributed by hosting fundraising events such as the St. Joseph Mustangs and Missouri Western athletics, and last week McDonald’s wrapped it up with a fundraiser.

“United Way in St. Joseph is 103 years old and we’ve been raising money since day one,” Strough said.

All United Way members enjoyed being able to interact and meet donors face-to-face, some for the first time.

“We really get to know them and understand what their aspirations are for the community,” Strough said.

There’s still at least one large campaign outstanding that will contribute to their goal. Strough said one of the reasons they didn’t reach the goal was due to half of a large company donor being sold and needing to hit a pause on the organization.

“Overall, we noticed an increase in donations and 38 percent of people that mail them in increased their amounts,” Strough said. “There’s a strong message of support from the community.”

Strough said the United Way holds the campaign tradition in their hearts very strongly and hopes to continue to raise funds and help even more people in the future.


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MoDOT eyes final two alternatives for I-229 bridge

The future of Interstate 229 in St. Joseph is getting closer to being determined as the Missouri Department of Transportation focuses on final options for the bridge that borders the city’s west side.

At the 2019 Northwest Missouri Freight Summit on Thursday, MoDOT showed off two alternatives to the current double-decked bridge that were favored by an advisory committee over other plans.

Both options would see the bridge taken out of the skyline.

MoDOT District Planning Manager Shannon Kulisek said the bridge is starting to cost more than it may be worth.

“The problem with the bridge as it is right now, is that it’s in poor condition,” he said. “We have to do an investment in the next, probably, five years to rehab it. That’s a $50 million investment and that’s only going to give us 30 to 40 years and then we’re back to where we are now.”

The first option shown, called the Main and Second Street alternative, would involve connecting I-229 to Main Street coming from the north and creating a new, shaped road between KCP&L electric boxes and the railroad tracks near Riverfront Park that would connect with Second Street, where new connections would be created to take drivers to the stockyards.

“The other option, called the Roundabout alternative, would be similar, but would rebuild two ramps at Francis and Felix streets with a roundabout and a new road around Second Street that would go south to connect to the U.S. Highway 36 interchange and Stockyards Expressway.

Kulisek said I-229 North is not heavily trafficked by drivers going out of state and truck drivers.

“In reality, the interstate doesn’t really function as an interstate, it functions as a local pass-through road, and this would make that section of roadway more compatible with the traffic use as it is right now,” he said.

St. Joseph Metropolitan Planning Organization Transit Planning Manager Chance Gallagher said the MPO will be a part of the process for selecting a final alternative.

“It’s going to be a matter of: Is the city OK with it, and the MPO and MoDOT?” she said. “Some of those (alternatives) that go through the city streets, it could be a little bit of an added burden. So, we’ll have to look into that a little bit.”

Gallagher said the MPO’s Technical Committee is scheduled to vote on which option they prefer next week.

Thursday’s Freight Summit was the second hosted by St. Joseph after last year’s, which focused on the port and economic development. This year, the topics included infrastructure and human trafficking.


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ST. JOSEPH SCHOOL DISTRICT
Facilities Plan 2019
Students give presentations, views on future plans

Lining the walls of Joseph Barbosa’s classroom at Central High School on Thursday morning were the five high-school facility concepts that members of the St. Joseph School District presented to the public back in October.

Teachers, students and a member of the district’s board of education, shuffled into the classroom and took their seats as groups of students in Barbosa’s AP Government class presented facts and opinions on each of the five concepts.

“We prepared a presentation that was supposed to be informative but have a little bit of our own thinking and to be a little bit persuasive to the school board and the guests that he invited to come,” Olivia Smith, a senior at Central High School, said.

Smith presented on Concept C: Renovating Central High School while building a new high school and closing down both Benton and Lafayette. It’s a plan that one might assume a Central student would be more in favor of, yet that wasn’t the case with Smith or her group.

After doing research online and studying the pros and cons of each plan through the St. Joseph School District’s facilities website (some groups even conducted polls within Central High School), the facts became clearer.

“Our concept that we had was not the best because you would have to renovate Central, and Central is in a really bad state because of the load-bearing walls, the asbestos flooring and all those types of things,” Smith said. “And we just don’t have room to build new facilities here either, so the two schools would not really be equal. So if we were going to do a two-high-school model, which is what we recommended, we would want it to be two new schools.”

It was an opinion shared by multiple student groups Thursday morning, as they presented whether or not they believed their assigned concept would benefit the St. Joseph School District in the long run.

“The students really surprised me,” Barbosa said. “My students are very engaged, very loyal student leaders, varsity athletes. They truly do bleed blue. But the more research they did on their own, it made them look at the bigger picture. That’s why the overall majority of the students recommend not to renovate Central, but look into a new high school concept or even a two-high-school concept. They really wanted to be about the district rather than about one school.”

Cameron Gilmore, a senior at Central High School, and his group were assigned Concept D: Maintaining and renovating all three high schools.

In the end, the idea of having to spread programs across three high schools and spending the money to renovate what’s already there wasn’t a concept he and his group could adamantly support.

“So what I learned actually is that this concept is very popular with the public opinion. However, what a lot of people aren’t taking consideration on social media in general are the costs,” Gilmore said. “Of course, it’s the lowest upfront cost, but it’s actually the highest in cost in total due to those overall operational costs.”

Barbosa said that the project was designed to encourage collaboration while fostering real-world skills, such as presenting in front of a group. However, he said, local government is desperate for their engagement.

“As part of the AP curriculum, we’re trying to go beyond just preparing for the test. Government is about engagement. I as well as all of our teachers here at Central and the St. Joseph School District want to see our students becoming engaged citizens in our society. They’re the future leaders, the future politicians, the future members of our community that will move us forward, so they desperately need to be informed about the plans that affect us all.”

Both Smith and Gilmore said staying informed and educated on public and government matters is something they hope to make a priority going forward.

“I think people need to get more educated about each one of these plans and make a decision not with their hearts, but with their brains when looking at what would be best for the community,” Gilmore said.

We prepared a presentation that was supposed to be informative but have a little bit of our own thinking and to be a little bit persuasive ... — Olivia Smith,
senior at Central High School