Franklin County is finally going out to bid for construction on the Labadie Great Streets improvement project.

The project, funded mostly with federal funds allocated through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, will include pavement construction, permeable pavements, drainage improvements, hardscape plaza spaces and decorative site furnishing and amenities on Front Street in downtown Labadie.

The total project will cost an estimated $1 million, with the county picking up 20 percent of the tab.

Last month the county approved a roughly $65,000 project with BFA Inc., Washington, for construction engineering services.

County Highway Administrator Eva Gadcke said the latest holdup was with the state — MoDOT personnel had not yet approved the final design.

Now that the design has been approved, the county can seek bids for construction work.

Gadcke said Tuesday Ameren Missouri began utility relocation immediately.

Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said he’s excited about the project.

“We’re hoping to have everything completed before the winter weather sets in this year,” Griesheimer said.

“I look at Labadie as being a sleepy area with big future in the county,” he said. “This could be a spark to get other businesses started. I see Labadie becoming more than just a spot on the map.

“I’m a frequent visitor to Labadie,” Griesheimer said. “It is one of the most beautiful areas in not only the county, but the state. This will enhance what’s already there.”

He also said the project could spark the community into incorporating sometime in the future.

Support Not Unanimous

Not everyone is as strong of a proponent of the project, however.

One Labadie business owner, who did not wish to be identified, told The Missourian that the issue was divisive to the community among those who are newer to the Labadie area and those who have lived in the area for a long time.

The project has been in the works for years after having been picked in 2008 as one of four pilot projects for the Great Streets Initiative.

Progress has been delayed because of changes in federal requirements as well as design changes.

“We’ve had a lot of constraints,” Griesheimer said, specifically noting the gas pumps at the Labadie Market.

Thanks Property Owners

“We cannot thank the property owners down there enough,” Griesheimer said. “They’ve been through a long, tedious process and have been promised this project for a long time. For a while it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.

“The property owners have been very supportive. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t do this,” he said. “If one property owner had decided to be difficult to work with, the project would have gone down the tube.”

Griesheimer said property owners along Front Street, also known as Labadie Bottom Road, donated right of way and worked with planners to address a variety of issues.

“I think it’s nothing but positive,” said Ed Stowe, senior vice president and branch manager for the Bank of Sullivan’s Labadie Banking Center.

“Overall it is going to help everyone down here. It’ll make it a more attractive place to me,” Stowe said. “(Front Street) is already a destination point, but this will hopefully bring more business down here.

“I’m 100 percent behind it,” he said.

Griesheimer also thanked Ed Hillhouse, former presiding commissioner and currently the executive director of East-West Gateway, for his vision on the project.

“Behind the scenes, he did a lot of work to make sure this project didn’t go by the wayside,” Griesheimer said of Hillhouse.

“When this is done, Labadie, if it wasn’t on the map before, will certainly be a shining star. People will take notice,” he said.