City Council discusses surplus fund allocation

Feb 19, 2013

City Council met Monday night to discuss plans for the $2 million dollar surplus funds, focusing primarily on Columbia's infrastructure.

City Council opened discussions for project proposals funded by surplus funds
Credit Andrew Magill

Mayor Bob McDavid asked City Council members to use half a million dollars of the city’s surplus to restore the Blind Boone Home.

The world-famous musician lived in the home on Fourth Street until his death in 1927, but the house has sat empty since the city purchased it in 2000. Now, the mayor is asking for $500,000 of the city’s $1.9 million surplus to renovate the home. Chair of the J.W. Blind Boone Foundation Clyde Ruffin describes the home as a shell needing complete renovations. He says the goal is to use the restored home as a place of community gathering and interaction for people of all ages.

“The goal is to have a lot of young people in and out of the house, a lot of activities in the house, so that it really becomes a place that’s very alive with people coming and going,” Ruffin said.

Ruffin says the plan is to turn the home into an interactive museum that is appropriate to the time period of the house and to have community gardens and concert spaces outdoors. Columbia Council Member Gary Kespohl says there could also be plans for some city offices on the second floor of the house.

Kespohl says the city can use the surplus for this project because general fund reserves have already been set aside.

“Adding more money to the general fund, I mean it’s okay to do, but we’re already above our guidelines,” he said,  “so if we need roads that need to be fixed or sidewalks that need to be repaired or whatever it is, you know,  we probably ought to do that.”

Under the mayor’s proposal, the remaining surplus would go toward upkeep of Columbia’s roads.

Columbia City Council decided last night to delay any decision making in the Providence road project until after the April 2 municipal elections.

In 2011, a two phase plan was proposed to try to address traffic problems on Providence Road near the Grasslands Neighborhood. The first phase would install additional traffic lights. The second phase included the seizure and demolition of eight properties along the stretch of Providence road, to be replaced by a new residential street to redirect traffic flow. That’s prompted some controversy in the neighborhood. City Council tabled further discussion Monday, deciding to hold a public hearing after the April municipal election to discuss what the council should do with the proposal.

Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who was on City Council when improvements to Providence road were being initially discussed, says the discussion was tabled because of the gap of time and lack of ongoing communications between all parties involved.

“I put forth the resolution to resend those ordinances and go back to the drawing board because there’s so many people that are disenfranchised, they think, through this process, that I think we just need to stop and start over,” said Nauser.

At the meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission delivered a report that said the Public Works Director didn’t facilitate the customary meetings between interested parties while developing the two phase plan in 2012.