A grant-funded sidewalk project along Rolla Road will be recommended for approval by MoDOT following action by the board of aldermen at its first February meeting.

The project, mostly funded by a Transportation Alternatives Program grant, involves construction of a sidewalk, a road crossing with push button signalization, curb and gutter and drainage infrastructure along Rolla Road from the R-80 administration building and Salem High School east to the Salem Community Center @ the Armory.

The project also includes handicapped accessible sidewalks into Salem City Park and handicapped accessible parking improvements at the park.

The TAP grant will cover 80 percent of eligible project costs, with the remainder coming from this year’s budget, city administrator Ray Walden said.

The board approved a motion Monday night to approve a recommendation by Archer Elgin, the city’s engineering firm, to request MoDOT approval of a $306,600 bid by Donald Maggi Inc. The board previously awarded the project to Maggi last August, but the contract did not survive the MoDOT review process.

The earlier bid didn’t meet Disadvantaged Business Enterprise requirements for contractor ownership participation by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The DBE goal, 11 percent last summer, was reduced by MoDOT to 9 percent for the rebidding in January, according to a letter from Archer Elgin, and Maggi was the only bidder to meet the requirement at 9.1 percent DBE.

Archer Elgin recommended the city deem the other low bidder non-responsive for failing to meet the 9 percent goal and award the project to Maggi.

Walden called the project significant and “a long time coming.” The city should receive approval to proceed from MoDOT by approving the recommendation, he said.

Alderman Kenneth Nash asked if city crews could perform some of the work. Walden said they could not because it has to be done to MoDOT specifications using approved vendors.

“We can’t take advantage of the grant funds and do the work ourselves,” he said.

“As you know I’m very conservative,” Nash said. “I think the city needs to pay everything they can on the bill we owe, the debt that this town owes. It’s a pretty big debt, therefore I vote no on this project.” The recommendation was approved on a 2-1 vote with alderman Kevin James absent.

Also at the meeting, Kristin DeLuca of K DeLuca Audit Services, presented the annual audit for the year ending June 30, 2019, that showed the city on solid financial footing. It received an “unmodified opinion” showing its financial statements are presented in accordance with accepted accounting standards, also called a clean audit.

DeLuca said the city increased its net financial position by $1.27 million in the fiscal year ending last June, to $16.4 million with liabilities of $9.85 million, including about $8 million in long-term debt. The city has total assets, including infrastructure, of nearly $27 million.

There were no new findings to report, which DeLuca called a positive. One recurring finding is the need for more separation of duties among employees handling city finances.

“Any time we have one or two people that do all the accounting work, we have a lack of segregation of duties,” she said. “It’s my job to remind you of that, and your job to decide the cost vs. the benefit of putting more people into the process.”

Scenic Rivers Industries manager Joe Bruno addressed the board about budget cuts facing the sheltered workshop. He expressed concern about pending U.S. Senate legislation that would eliminate sub-minimum wage pay for sheltered workshop clients and also increase the federal minimum wage.

“It has not been called to the floor of the Senate,” he said. “Many people expect it not to pass. I don’t trust that because many people didn’t expect the new minimum wage in Missouri to pass.”

The new state minimum wage, now at $9.45 an hour with more increases coming over the next few years, is a concern, he said. There are currently 33 developmentally disabled clients at the workshop making a percentage of the minimum wage, based on their level of measured productivity.

But Bruno said he is most concerned about awareness and support at the local and county level. With a budget cut of $47,300, he is currently looking at a $10,000 deficit this year “if everything goes perfectly,” he said. The workshop is seeking grant funding, additional work and a larger share of SB40 funding, he indicated.

“I’m asking this community to look at ways we can stay afloat as much as we can,” he said. “We do a lot of good work…One of the jobs we do that affects the city a lot is we recycle cardboard, a total of 150 tons last year.”

But the rates paid for cardboard, due to the tariffs between the U.S. and China, have gone down to “next to nothing,” from $200 a ton in 2017 to $45 today, he said. It now costs the shelter $4,500 in wages and man-hours to collect and recycle a truckload of over 20 tons of cardboard to get $1,000 in return.

“We have always done that just to break even,” he told aldermen. “Even at the height of cardboard prices, we were at about a break-even level.”

He added, “What I’m asking is for people to think about the way things are arranged. There are several entities in this community that administer (programs) to people with disabilities, and many of those entities have an overage of funding, but we have a shortage of funding. I just can’t see the community allowing a 44-year institution that opened in 1977 go by the wayside.”

Alderman Nash told Bruno the board supports providing the shelter workshop for handicapped individuals and said he invited State Rep. Jeff Pogue to attend the meeting. He was unable to attend. “Everybody needs to call their state representative and ask them to go to bat for us,” Nash said.

SRI board member Keith Mueller and his son, Matthew, who works at SRI, also addressed aldermen.

In other action, the board approved a resolution setting a sale price of $1,500 an acre for lots in the Masters Industrial Park in order to expedite purchases by industrial prospects. The price is good for five years and is based on the most recent land appraisals.

A set price will allow the city to be competitive when responding to requests from businesses outside the area, state or country that are not familiar with local land pricing, the resolution states.

Also approved was a resolution approving a new agreement with CM Archer Group for city engineering services on various projects. The agreement is for three years and can be renewed for three, successive one-year periods. Compensation is based on services performed on each project.

In his report, Walden said new utility bills will reflect about one month’s usage and not be as large as some citizens anticipated.

“As we get fully converted to the AMI system, we’ll get caught up on our billing and get back to the evenly monthly cycles, which we expect to do with this next bill,” he said.

Walden also announced that:

• a retirement reception for retiring police chief Keith Steelman and Mary Farrar, his second in command, will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Feb. 14 at the police station. The event is open to the public. He said the city appreciates their many years of service.

• city offices will be closed Feb. 17 for Presidents Day, he said. The next board of aldermen meeting has been moved to Feb. 18 as a result of the holiday.

Parks & Recreation Director Melissa DuBois reported that the Skills & Drills football camp was underway at the Salem Community Center @ the Armory.

“We have an amazing turnout with 134 kids packed into the Armory,” she said. “It’s been crazy but awesome.”

She thanked coaches Andrew Wynn and Dylan Wyrick for donating their time. SMDH sponsored the camp and donated first aid bags.

DuBois also said work is continuing on the LWCS grant for development of a new soccer complex.

“We have a really good application,” she said, with many letters of support from the community that will be submitted with it. The application is due this month.

In other business, the board approved a request by chief Steelman for destruction of police records over seven years old that meet state guidelines in the police clerks records retention manual. They include incident and accident reports, runaway reports, logs, messages, arrest records and profiling statistics. The records being incinerated are for January through December of 2013.

Aldermen also approved plans for a new mobile park at 701 E. Center by Refuge Properties, owned by Legend Clift and Jamie Cantrell. Refuge has purchased the property, where a mobile home park was located previously. City Inspector Jarred Brown has already approved the plans. The next step is installation of a waterline.

According to the proposal, the lot will accommodate between 20 and 28 mobile homes. All must be new with newly built front decks or porches. There are strict rules for trash removal, lawn care, yard restrictions and tenant responsibilities that management will enforce, the proposal states. No loud music or loud parties are allowed, home exteriors must be clean, and all tenants must undergo criminal background checks and credit checks before being approved to rent.

Clift told aldermen he lives not far from the property.

“If tenants break rules, it’s on us to make sure they correct the issue or we evict or whatever we have to do. As far as maintenance and rules we are the enforcer,” he said.

Alderman Nash said he likes the proposal.

“I’ve looked at this very closely and I think if you stay with your plans you’re going to have a very nice mobile park,” he said. “I think that’ll improve that area a lot.”