Christian County Discount Freight

Christian County Discount Freight owner Todd White (left) talks to a contractor during the construction of a new store at North Towne Centre Drive and Calhoun Street in Ozark.

MU Extension wants Ozark representation

Pam Duitsman, program director for the University of Missouri Extension office in Christian County, encouraged Ozark officials Nov. 19 to choose a person to represent the city on the Extension Council.

“Any city of 10,000 or over needs to have representation,” Duitsman said. “We do not have a representative for Ozark.”

Duitsman said that appointments are for two years and that Extension Council members focus on three main objectives: economy, education and health outcomes.  She said historically the Nixa city administrator has represented that community. 

She provided the board of aldermen with nomination forms that must be completed and signed, saying that the appointed member would be sworn in come January with other members elected at-large from the Christian County.

“They need to fill out the nomination form with a bio and sign that by Dec. 20, “ Duitsman said. “Allowing some time to collect these and come to an agreement on an appointment.”

Mayor Rick Gardner asked who the extension office might want to represent Ozark.

“In your experience, does it work best for a city official rather than a city resident?” Gardner asked.

Not necessarily, said Duitsman.

“Really, we are looking for critical thinkers who love the community,” she said. “I would encourage all in the room tonight who are interested to fill out the (nomination form.) Join and be a part of what MU can bring to the county; join hands and help solve some of the issues.”

Ozark officials expecting tepid economy

The Ozark Board of Aldermen is slated to adopt the city’s 2019 budget at its next meeting Dec. 3. 

“We’ve had several meetings on this,” said City Administrator Steve Childers. “Everyone has had an opportunity to look at the budget. We are projecting another modest 2 percent sales tax growth.” 

Childers included a letter with the proposed budget saying that the local economy experienced a steady five-year growth pattern with modest retail and residential expansion, but that expansion has not translated into significant new sales tax revenue. Childers cited online shopping and a daytime drop in population due to commuting as the two key factors. 

“…(T)he likelihood of a future annual increase in sales tax greater than 2-4 percent is low,” he said in the letter. “The city’s average sales tax growth over the past decade has only been approximately 1.85 percent.”

To that end, Childers recommended following a conservative budget philosophy of “predicting low revenue increases and worst-case scenario expenses,” until the economic climate improves. 

Childers acknowledged that revenues from the half-cent park stormwater sales tax are sufficient to cover principal and interest bond payments for the Ozark Community Center and that the 3/8-cent transportation sales tax is meeting projections allowing for promised improvements. 

The letter and the budget details, which are available online at the city’s website, show some operating deficits. That’s because, Childers said, revenues are conservatively projected and expenses are liberally projected. If the “worst-case scenario” presents, there are more than enough cash “carryovers” to balance the fund.

“There are operating deficits, but those are conservative projections covered in every case with available cash i.e. “carryover funds..,” Childers said in an email response.

In closing, Childers said that “(m)anagement is confident that the proposed 2019 budget is appropriately structured to allow the city…to meet key priorities and provide a well-balanced community."

DNR trails grant

The Ozark Board of Aldermen is slated to accept, Dec. 3, a $79,000-matching grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for trail construction.

“You know how aggressively we go after grants,” Childers said. ”This is one we are super proud of. “

Childers credited Planning and Development Director Cameron Smith for securing the funds through DNR’s 2018 Recreational Trails Program. 

“This is a formal process to accept the grant contract,” Smith said. “The city will provide $52,000, the grant was $79,000.”

The funds, totaling approximately $131,000 are for engineering, design and construction for phase one of the Finley River Trail expansion. The award letter states that Ozark was one of 10 out of 42 applicants selected to receive the grant.

The project, according to grant guidelines, must be completed by October of 2020.

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