Aldermen debated the repercussions of a cost-sharing deal that included the city accepting ownership of a portion of South Highway N, a former state road.
One alderman said the city has made a deal it will regret.
Who owns and must maintain South Highway N is a matter of vast importance to the city of Pacific, according to Alderman Ed Gass.
Gass, who served as public works commissioner for more than 20 years, said the city could never afford to maintain the road in its current condition. He also said it would make sense for the city to accept ownership only if the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) covered the ditches on the side of the roadway opposite the new sidewalks and installed a curb.
In an often-heated argument, Gass was strongly chastised for his worries at the May 1 board of aldermen meeting.
Alderman Jerry Eversmeyer said the board of aldermen had agreed to accept ownership of the road as part of a cost-sharing program to construct sidewalks from Hawthorne subdivision to Riverbend School.
Even though they are not completed, Eversmeyer said residents also are heavily using the sidewalks for walking and running on.
“You would not have been able to run along that roadway without sidewalks,” Eversmeyer said. “This a real safety issue in our city.”
Gass said he never would have agreed to the arrangement that had the city accepting the road due to the future cost burden the city will face.
Maintenance of the roadway could bankrupt the city, he said, which already does not have enough funds to maintain all its roads.
“You found the money to fix roads when you were public works commissioner and we’ll find the money to fix this road,” Eversmeyer responded.
“I fixed what I could,” Gass said. “But the city is now out of money. There is nowhere to get the money to resurface this road.”
City Administrator Harold Selby said Highway N would qualify for 80-20 matching grant funds and the city would only have to pay 20 percent of the cost of improvements.
“Right now we don’t even have the 20 percent,” Gass said.
The 20-percent match might qualify for a Franklin County Transportation grant, Selby noted.
Mayor Herb Adams weighed in on the disagreement saying that even though Gass was not an alderman when the deal with MoDOT was struck, the agreement was approved by the full board including the Ward 1 aldermen at that time.
“Your ward was represented in this agreement,” Adams said. “So you were represented.”
The mayor also said the city’s integrity was involved in completing the project.
“You are as good as your word,” he said. “We gave our word and we have to live up to our word.”