City set to buy News Tribune site Monday

The Jefferson City Council will vote Monday on the purchase of 210 Monroe St., the central office for the Jefferson City News Tribune, in preparation of a major downtown redevelopment project.

The council approved a sale contract in September with WEHCO Media Inc., owner of the News Tribune, to purchase the property for $563,000. On Oct. 31, Mayor Ron Fitzwater announced the building and the Madison Street municipal parking garage next door will be torn down.

The two neighboring lots, about 84,000 square feet of space, will soon become the site of a joint hotel, convention center and parking garage.

City staff members collaborated with the Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership (JCREP) to determine the best use for the location about two blocks east of the Missouri State Capitol.

Luke Holtschneider, president and CEO of JCREP, said he feels certain almost two acres of land is enough to include all three amenities.

"That was kind of the first step is figuring out could it fit," Holtschneider said.

The city has a deadline to close with and pay WEHCO before Nov. 30, according to the contract. The contract also includes a leaseback period, meaning the News Tribune can continue to operate out of 210 Monroe St. until Jan. 31 for $500 a month.

Part of the contract also includes 30 parking spaces in the new garage for News Tribune staff members.

The 33,539-square-foot building has housed the News Tribune since 1931. WEHCO has yet to announce a new office location for the newspaper.


Also for Monday's meeting, the Public Works Department has submitted a resolution to allocate funds to hire more employees for the yard waste dropoff site on Ellis Boulevard.

Since 2010, the city has contracted out a private company to operate a site in which residents can drop off yard waste and pick up compost for free. After a lengthy bidding process that resulted in the current contractor, All Seasons Landscaping, rejecting negotiations for a renewal, staff opened a city-run site.

The city-run site, located at 708 Ellis Blvd., is open from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays and Sundays, and will cease operations after Jan. 7.

During the November Public Works and Planning Committee meeting, several councilmen said they've heard residents complain they are unable to access the site due to its limited hours.

"We've been getting a lot of feedback -- at least I have -- that it's not enough hours," Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schwartz said.

Schwartz suggested adding four hours on Friday to cover people who work weekends. He also said providing residents one more day to drop off yard waste would spread out the weekend traffic. Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer said he noticed a backup of vehicles on Ellis Boulevard leading to the dropoff site.

Public Works Director Matt Morasch said it's already difficult to find employees for the weekend hours. Morasch has been asking his public works staff to take on the additional duties and found during the site's first open weekend, the job requires three people, while he only had two.

"I think one of the issues is, at the dropoff area, we do have that Bobcat and then we have somebody checking in, but when we have citizens around the work zone, you kind of need one on the ground and one on the machine. You don't want anybody sneaking up on a guy in a Bobcat," Morasch said.

Schwartz suggested the Public Works Department reach out to private contractors and ask about hiring non-city staff to run the site every weekend until January.

"A lot of these landscaping companies slow down this time of year, is there an option to hire temp workers for eight weeks?" Schwartz asked.

While Britt Smith, the operations division director for public works, said the department has a hard time finding any workers, Morasch noted the city would contract a company and the company would be responsible for finding employees.

This resulted in a bill that will put $25,000 toward hiring at the yard waste site. The bill summary states city staff sent three local companies request for bids, which Morasch said he will present Monday.

According to city code, the city administrator has authority to sign contracts on behalf of the city so long as the amount doesn't exceed $25,000, however Morasch said he wants to ensure all of City Council supports the proposal.

This money comes from funding already allocated for the contractor, approximately $17,000 a month.


The High Street viaduct has two agenda items for Monday.

First, Todd Kempker, a project engineer with the engineering firm of Bartlett & West, will present updated suggestions for the High Street bridge spanning from the Amtrak train tracks near Jefferson City Fire Department Station 1 to just before St. Peter Interparish School.

The city hosted a public input session earlier this month, hoping to garner opinions about the five options listed on the Jefferson City government website.

Public Works Director Matt Morasch said he expects Bartlett & West to present to the full council a final, single option. Morasch said it would likely be a mix of the second and third options, which both shorten the bridge and raise Missouri Boulevard to be level with High Street for an intersection.

The two options differ in that the second option, estimated to cost $11.3 million, shortens the bridge to 410 feet, while the third option, estimated to cost $10.8 million, shortens the bridge to 230 feet and realigns part of Wears Creek so the roads don't cross over the creek as much.

City engineer David Bange said realigning the creek would result in staff having to sort out a "number of issues," foremost of which is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because Wears Creek is considered a waterway of the United States.

For the second agenda item, the council will vote to allow staff members to apply for grants related to the viaduct project. The bill summary states staff members anticipate a local match of between 50 and 80 percent.

The city will work with Cole County on the project since the funds are coming from the joint half-cent capital improvement sales tax.


The council will vote Monday to reappoint Jeanne Jacobek to the Environmental Quality Commission for a full term.

Jacobek's appointment requires a two-thirds majority vote and her term would expire November 2026.


The council passes an ordinance each year establishing local election dates for the upcoming April election. During last month's administration committee meeting, city attorney Ryan Moehlman suggested a policy with specific rules for election filing be created.

The committee's final decision was to keep the city's unofficial honor system among candidates. The honor system, according to the Jefferson City website, is that the first person at City Hall will be the first on the ballot, even if City Hall is not officially open yet. The expectation is the candidates filing will respect the order.

It has been common practice for some council candidates to arrive at City Hall as early as 3 a.m. to ensure the first spot on the Jefferson City ballot, Ward 3 Councilwoman and administration committee chairwoman Erin Wiseman said. City Hall doors open at 8 a.m., though often there is a staff member who allows the candidates to wait inside around 6 a.m.

Candidate filing will open Dec. 5 and close Dec. 26, according to the ordinance. The election will be April 2 and one seat from each ward will be up for election.

Incumbents holding the seats are Ward 1 Councilman Jack Deeken, Ward 2 Councilman Mike Lester, Ward 4 Councilman Randall Wright and Ward 5 Councilman Jon Hensley.

Wiseman will reach her eight-year term limit in 2024. She was first elected in 2016 and was re-elected every two years following.


The council will vote on a contract with Fischer Grain Farms to lease 501 acres near the Jefferson City Memorial Airport for five years.

Fischer Grain Farms will pay the city $125,000 a year to farm the property.

Fischer recently won a contract with the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department to farm about 52 acres near the Carl R. Noren river access.