A look at the headlines of 2017 shows how Pacific is changing, opening new avenues for economic development and introducing new learning tools for Meramec Valley R-III School District students.
New businesses, a new Meramec River bridge, new library and preschool building, a tussle with FEMA over reimbursement for flood damage that ended in a victory for Pacific, heart-wrenching cemetery vandalism that brought a new friend to the rescue, and the purchase of the Historic Red Cedar Inn for city services all topped the headlines.
The Pacific Partnership also learned in December 2016 that Pacific had been selected to participate in a cost-sharing Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) affiliate grant.
The Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce and city of Pacific joined the Partnership in applying for the grant. The Partnership will coordinate the program, which has a goal to help revitalize downtown.
The Partnership and MMSC have held preliminary meetings to develop a revitalization plan for Pacific.
New Bend Bridge
Construction started on a new Bend Bridge — although the name may change — started in January 2017, but was halted when the May 5 flood washed out part of the work area. Work resumed in August and the bridge is on schedule to open in the spring of 2018.
The new two-lane bridge will replace the 99-year-old truss bridge, which Miller & Borcherding of St. Louis completed in 1918.
The project is estimated to cost $4.3 million with an 80/20 federal split, leaving the county to pay about $1 million. Lehman Construction Company, California, Mo., is the contractor
New Use of CIDs
A change in the city’s use of community improvement districts (CIDs) brought B & H Market, 2240 W. Osage, a new upscale grocery store, to a long empty retail building in March.
In the past, the city used CIDs to fund public improvements on Viaduct Street, West Osage and East Osage. The change allowed taxes collected by private development to help fund the development.
The new CID rules paved the way for the new 80-acre strip mall to be constructed on the undeveloped hillside on Hogan Road beginning next year where the first projects are identified as a hotel and restaurant complex.
Change of Heart
In March the city learned that FEMA had denied reimbursing the city for $1.2 million in damage to the sewage treatment facility done during the floods of 2016 and 2017 due to paperwork misunderstanding.
The city appealed the denial and later learned that FEMA agreed to reverse its earlier decision and reimburse the city for repairing the damage.
Another painful headline that turned out to have a positive outcome was the damage at the city cemetery.
Residents woke up on March 30 to learn that vandals had toppled approximately 140 stones in the City Cemetery and two other nearby cemeteries. Many of the older stones were damaged beyond repair when they were knocked over.
But in a stroke of outstanding good luck, the Franklin County Cemetery Committee, joined by three commercial monument companies and scores of volunteers, re-set and cleaned the toppled stones at no cost to the city.
In June, a citizen committee headed by Norbert Gildehaus and Bob Masson formed to raise funds to elevate and restore the Historic First Baptist Church, 421 S. First St., which was damaged in the 2016 and 2017 floods.
The small frame sanctuary and adjoining education building has served the African-American community in Pacific since the 1870s.
The church cornerstone is dated 1874, which makes it the oldest black church in the Pacific area, predating Rose Hill, Mount Calvary, Pacific Temple and Robertsville Temple.
The school district started construction on a new $4 million preschool building that will combine the Early Childhood Center with the Title 1 Preschool in the Community School into one building.
Plans for the new school were announced in February and given the go-ahead in April after voters approved the $11 million bond issue that included the new school as one of its goals.
The building will occupy the tract of land opposite Zitzman Elementary that the late Doris Hoffman bequeathed to the district.
Classes are scheduled to start in the new building in August 2018.
New Education Tools
In August, the school district entered the second phase of its one-to-one program that issued a take-home Chromebook computer to every high school student.
Using their Chromebooks and Google accounts students turn in assignments, check for grades, receive new assignments, see any assignments that are still due and get notices of upcoming assignments.
Teachers now track every element of the students’ work on the Google master program.
The program was inaugurated last year when Chromebooks were issued to sixth- through eighth-graders.
Null and Crossbones, 2165 West Osage, an import retail business located in the former motorcycle showroom between Route 66 and Interstate 44, opened in October. The store owners have filled the property with giant painted metal animal sculptures imported from Mexico.
Like the arrival of Bigfoot 4 by 4 the previous year, this unique business has attracted visitors to the city from throughout the region.
City Buys Red Cedar
Also in October, the city purchased the historic Red Cedar Inn building, 1047 E. Osage, to be used as a visitor center and history museum. The purchase agreement allowed the seller, Gallagher Properties, to remain in the building for six months.
The Red Cedar Inn was built in 1932 to serve as a dining stop for motorists on the new Route 66. The Smith family operated the Inn as a dining room for 75 years.
The building has attracted visitors from across the United States and from Europe, who are traveling Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.