HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. — There was a full house Tuesday night at the Holts Summit Board of Aldermen meeting as locals responded to highly-contested bills on prohibiting the use of engine brakes and reducing the speed along Highway 54 within the city limits.
Beginning the comments, Holts Summit resident Ramona Huckstep spoke about finishing a section of unfinished sidewalk along Halifax Road near her home. Huckstep said since she's been working from home due to the pandemic, she has watched her neighbors — and her daughter, who runs on the side of the road to practice for cross country — with caution, thinking about the lack of safety of walking on a roadside.
"Tonight, I'm putting my 'citizen' hat on," said Huckstep, who mentioned there are also buses and people with disabilities who use the road and could use the safety of a sidewalk. "It would be better if there was a safer walkway for them."
The current sidewalk is .3 miles, and she asked if the city could extend it another .6 miles. Huckstep also estimated extending the sidewalk would cost about $500,000, but also mentioned the newly-passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — of which Holts Summit would receive $808,000 — could possibly help with infrastructure.
Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann — while reviewing progress reports with roads, bridges and jail infrastructure in the county and the city — mentioned stimulus funds as well, but said the money the city would be receiving couldn't be used on some infrastructure, as it would only apply if there was an overall revenue loss.
Street and Parks Department Superintendent Mark Tate said the sidewalk extension is part of the city's five-year plan of repairs. Jungermann added that the county jail is working to become an accredited facility to possibly help with costs.
In unfinished business Tuesday night, an ordinance that will authorize competitive bids for banking services, which was first read last month, was further discussed and approved. The contract calls for a year-long position providing banking services for the city, dealing with bank accounts and the keeping of city funds.
In new business, two bills were removed from the agenda before being read, one that would prohibit the use of engine brakes that "results in excessive, loud (sic), unusual, or explosive noise" within the city limits and the other on reducing the speed from 70 mph to 60 mph along Highway 54 within the city limits. As there was no vote, the bills would not go into effect, but the aldermen opened the floor for comments concerning both matters.
Among the 11 visitors there for public comment, one asked about how the "jake brakes" bill was brought up and five people spoke about the bill that would reduce the speed along Highway 54. Although the bill concerning brakes was in its first reading, it was still discussed on the city's Facebook page upon the agenda posting, while the reduced speed-limit bill was discussed at last month's meeting.
Several of the residents are from Holts Summit and live on the road where the speed would be reduced. Comments on both bills were negative, with some saying elected officials should be working to improve the condition of the roads in town versus reducing the speed on a highway. Chris Allison, of Holts Summit, commented May 7: "Lowering the speed limit doesn't prevent bad driving. Some of those crosses (referencing comments from the April meeting) are from people driving on the wrong side of the highway, drugged or drunk."
By the end of the comments, HSPD and board members expressed their agreement with the issue. Mayor Landon Oxley said upon talking to the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Transportation, they had confirmed "there's a 99 percent chance it would not happen," so the bill would have been fruitless.
"What we came in here today was to figure out the reasoning behind (the speed reduction), if it was caused by a series of crashes or issues," said Bill Rech, a Holts Summit resident.
In other business, Sewer Superintendent Keith Edwards presented on the closure of Choctaw Lagoon, a project that has been years in the waiting. Edwards said in meeting notes that in 2014, the city bypassed flow of the sewer system to Choctaw Lagoon in a pump station that was sent to Jefferson City. In order to eliminate liability, city officials wanted to move forward on closing the lagoon.
Although the lagoon would still require upkeep (doing monitoring tests, sampling when there is rain or snow and mowing during the summer), its closing would save the city $3,000-5,000 in maintenance and testing funds.
The board approved the project that is estimated to cost $30,000-50,000.