Cole County budget, Bus. 50 contract approved

Cole County commissioners on Wednesday adopted a more than $60 million county government operating budget.

Shortly after that unanimous vote, the commissioners also approved spending nearly $3.5 million to improve Business 50 West in the Apache Flats area — which County Engineer Eric Landwehr called “the biggest project Public Works ever has done.”

County employees won’t see a pay raise this year, Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger noted in an interview.

“The big increase is, we picked up all the insurance premium increase, which is over $450,000 — and we did not change the plans,” he explained. “Employees have the same benefits, same co-pays (and) same deductibles.

“By picking up that enormous increase in health care, that protects all the people with health insurance from, potentially, much larger costs to their pockets.”

Ellinger said the other most-expensive part of the new budget is Public Works department projects.

“We’re doing Frog Hollow (road improvements) jointly with the city,” he explained. “We’re (starting) Dunklin and Lafayette streets, a cooperative project” with Jefferson City and the state Transportation department.

Commissioners on Wednesday approved beginning negotiations with Arcturis, a St. Louis-based architectural firm, to see if it could help with designing “enhancements” for the new overpasses MoDOT will build as part of the new Lafayette Street interchange with the U.S. 50-63 Expressway.

Arcturis was one of two companies expressing an interest in the project.

During Wednesday’s commission meeting, Ellinger supported starting negotiations with Arcturis because one of their architects, “Russ Volmert, is from here.”

Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher agreed “having ties to the community” could help the firm with design work at the interchange.

Ellinger later told a reporter the work could improve the way a major entry to the city would look to visitors.

“It’s a gateway to our community, and it ought to look like a gateway to our community,” he explained. “What we have right now is a dirty rock cut, with trash and low-end curbs.”

The state Transportation department will let the contracts for the interchange and supervise the work.

But the city and county governments, which are sharing the project costs with the state, would have some control over parts of the design.

“Instead of just having a steel bridge, (we’d be) making it look something that’s appealing to the community when you come in,” Ellinger said. “We haven’t committed to doing it.

“We want to get some ideas — and some costs — to see what we’re talking about.”

The county Public Works department has complete say over the Business 50 project in Apache Flats.

Commissioners approved a contract with the Don Schnieders Excavating Co., the low bidder, for $3,498,955.21.

“That’s under our estimate,” Landwehr told commissioners.

The project will rebuild the road — which once carried U.S. 50 west from Jefferson City toward Sedalia — and add curbs and gutter, stormwater drainage and a sidewalk along the south side of the road from Country Club Drive west to past South Binder Lake and Babe Ruth drives.

“The project’s preliminary design is all the way (west) to Knapheide, which is where Rainbow Drive intersects,” Landwehr said. “But we only have the funding to do the three-lane section.”

The county also has an agreement with Jefferson City’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry department to build a greenway trail on the north side, from South Binder Lake Road east to Country Club Drive, with the city agency paying $76,000 for the extra work.

Except for the north-side greenway work, Landwehr told the commission, the project is to be finished by Dec. 15, and Schnieders “could earn a $30,000 bonus if they’re finished 15 days ahead of schedule.”

Landwehr told the News Tribune that Rainbow Drive will be the main detour during the work.

“We’ve got provisions in the contract (to) maintain access to all the property owners and all the businesses,” he said. “If you’re driving through the area, you wouldn’t want to drive from one end (of the project) to the other.

“But if you know where you’re going, you can get there.”

He asked for the public’s understanding, because “we know it’s going to be an inconvenience.”-

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