In 2017, a city officials spent a lot of time finishing work at Veterans Memorial Park, including completing the disabled veterans memorial.
“The memorial needed some additional manpower to get the fundraising completed and on track to be opened at the same time as the park,” City Administrator Russell Rost said. He agreed to sit on the board of Missouri Pathfinders, which spearheaded that portion of the project.
More than 1,000 people attended the Disabled Veterans and MIA/POW Memorial parade and dedication Sunday, May 7. The state-sanctioned memorial honors disabled veterans. It is for all branches and all communities in the area, as well as for all veterans in the county and beyond. A ribbon cutting was held for the park in July.
“The day I attended the grand opening of the disabled veterans memorial was probably one of the most emotional days I had last year,” he said. “Seeing the people using the new park as we were finishing it up and the way they were enjoying it was an awful proud moment.”
All facility usage at Veterans Memorial Park began in 2017, including the ball fields, splash pad and playgrounds, and the city took over operation of the concession stands at the park.
It also marked the first fireworks display hosted at the park, a change in tradition from the fairgrounds.
“With donations received we were able to almost double the size of the fireworks display,” Rost said. In 2018, the Sons of the American Legion will co-sponsor the event.
In December 2016, the board of aldermen declared three properties nuisance properties.
In 2017, the first of the properties, at 300 Grant St., was purchased from the owner by the city and cleaned up.
The property was located in a flood plain, so buildings and debris were removed and the land was reverted to green space.
Rost said the public works crews completing the cleanup saved the city financially. Work began in May and wrapped up in July. The cleanup of that property, which was started by the previous owner, spanned more than a decade.
The other two properties declared nuisances are moving toward litigation, Rost noted.
Another significant accomplishment in 2017 was the completion of the city lake project.
“That was a large project that I think provides great recreational opportunities for the city, especially to make it fully accessible to everybody for fishing opportunities,” Rost said.
Some initial fish stocking has been done and stocking will continue in the spring. In November 2018, trout will be added and the city will have it’s first winter trout program.
“That will allow people to catch and release during the winter months. In February (2019), they’ll be allowed to take their trout home based on state regulations,” Rost said.
The Urban Forestry Council also had a busy year, including celebrating Arbor Day by helping eradicate invasive honeysuckle at Veterans Memorial Park and Clark-Vitt Park.
The city also endured another flood in 2017, though Rost said damages were minimal because of mitigation efforts completed after the flood in 2016.
The Bourbeuse River crested at 29.33 feet May 3, 14.33 feet above flood stage. The crest was the third highest recorded, however the city did not have to make flood-related insurance claims.
The completion of the extension of Corporate Drive in the Union Corporate Center was lauded, as it opens an additional 40 acres of property available to industrial users.
Engineering and preliminary work for Denmark Road was completed in 2017 and the roadway improvements are in progress, Rost noted.
A TAP (Transportation Alternative Program) grant was secured for sidewalks to be added on West State Street and Clark Avenue, which will begin in the coming weeks.
Design work has started for replacing the low-water crossing on Denmark Road over Brush Creek.
The city co-sponsored the first Wingfest with the Union Area Chamber of Commerce.
A number of city employees retired in 2017 and were replaced.
“There have been a lot of opportunities for people wanting to get into municipal government,” Rost said, adding that the trend will continue over the next several years as Baby Boomers reach retirement age.
There were a number of goals Rost said he looks forward to in 2018.
“It’s not going to be a quiet year, that’s for sure,” Rost said.
At the top of the list is resolving issues with nuisance properties in the city.
Three construction projects are getting underway, including work on Springfield Road, Denmark Road and the sidewalks on West State/Clark.
Getting the lake full and stocked for recreational use is another big goal.
A new playground will be added to Veterans Memorial Park, as well as some field improvements at the baseball/softball complex.
The city parks department will expand recreational opportunities, Rost said, adding that they will be a nice addition to the city’s slate of activities.
In terms of economic development, the city is working to create a certified site in the industrial park off Progress Parkway, which makes the site shovel-ready for investors or users.
The city’s budgeting planning also is underway. This year will mark the third year that the insurance program for city employees was expanded and run by the city, which has resulted in a significant cost savings, Rost said. The goal is to move to a true insurance pool to stabilize rates and savings that have been realized so far.
“A lot of progress should be made toward adding members to the program and moving toward becoming a true pool system,” he said.