If you've had to drive around the Christian County courthouses or to Ozark City Hall, you'd probably agree with the appraisal that Ozark Director of Public Works Jeremy Parsons gave to some of the roads, particularly North Second Avenue.
"It's in pretty bad shape," Parsons said.
Streets around the square and north and south of the Christian County Historic Courthouse are in rough shape since water line replacement projects required the contractors to tear out pavement to replace utility lines. Persons who drive to downtown to take care of courthouse business, visit the Ozark license bureau, shop at boutiques or eat at one of the restaurants have all voiced complaints.
Parsons gave the Ozark Board of Aldermen some background on projects and contracts that will come before the board later in the spring. The city of Ozark began soliciting bids for a downtown paving project on April 23, with the expectation that bids will stop May 18.
"We did that strategically so we could release a lot of projects and, hopefully, get some attention from some big contractors," Parsons said.
Utility upgrade work in downtown Ozark wrapped up in late March 2021. Contractors started in the northern end of the Historic River District and worked south. City officials and downtown business owners are excited to see all of these improvements come to fruition, however, there are some nuisances.
Why not do all of the work at one time to save the city some grief, and maybe save the sidewall on a tire or two?
"The almighty dollar is driving all of this," Parsons said. "What we've been saying all along is that if we get good prices, we'll go as far as we can."
About $3.325 million budgeted for paving work will be stretched as far as possible. Some budget carryover from the previous year combined with an offer to honor prices from 2020 could work in Ozark's favor, Parsons said. A contractor offered to provide a change order to finish North Second Avenue based off a bid from 2020.
"It would just be tidying up some of this downtown," Parsons said. "Remember, we really put the hurt on Second Avenue, especially with that water main."
The second phase of improving downtown streets involves the streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. North Second Avenue, Hall Street, Church Street, Brick Street, First Street and Second Street are are scheduled for paving.
Voters in Ozark enacted a 3/8-cent transportation sales tax in 2017, allowing for the creation of a five-year transportation improvement plan. Not all of the funding for street projects on square, or in other parts of Ozark, comes from the transportation sales tax, but it helps the Ozark Department of Public Works conduct street projects like the downtown paving project on a larger scale.
"Because of what the voters did for the city of Ozark, we have really been able to knock out some projects," Parsons said. "We've been able to take a big swing and it hits a lot of balls out of the park when it comes to local streets, as well."
Elsewhere in central Ozark, West Jackson Street is on schedule to be complete by November. The Jackson Street widening project is a MoDOT project that costs a total of $9.3 million.
"There have been some changes to it, but they tell me they are still on target for late November," Parsons said.
East of Highway 65, Jackson Street will be five lanes from 16th Street all the way east to the Finley River Bridge.
Ozark has been able to take advantage of federal and state matching funds to put up $5.5 million to $6 million in order to do about $21.6 million, which Parsons and City Administrator Steve Childers attributed to the power of the transportation sales tax.
"It's a great return on investment," Childers said.
Some projects are also possible through partnerships with the Ozark Special Road Districts, Christian County and the Missouri Department of Transportation.