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story.lead_photo.caption The stone wall that forms the south boundary of the National Cemetery in Jefferson City on East Miller Street, is seen in the background, just across the street from the East Miller Neighborhood Park. A city proposal calls for the National Cemetery to expand and the park to be relocated. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

An expansion of the Jefferson City National Cemetery sits in the hands of the U.S. Veterans Administration.

The Jefferson City Council showed support at Monday's meeting for offering the Veterans Administration (VA) East Miller Park for a potential expansion of the national cemetery. The bill passed unanimously.

The cemetery, which is across from the park, ran out of space for new burials in 1961 and cites for cremations in 1996. It is only open to subsequent burials for veterans or eligible family members at existing grave sites.

If the Veterans Administration accepts the park land, the cemetery would grow from 2.4 acres to 4.9 acres, more than doubling the amount of space.

However, the council's offer will be rescinded in two years if the VA hasn't accepted.

Missouri Representative Dave Griffith, on behalf of local veterans groups, approached the city about the park land in late 2019. He also proposed the expiration date on the city's offer.

Griffith said in the past his goal with the expiration date is to make sure it doesn't drag on indefinitely or be an open-ended offer.

City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said the city council could choose to extend that expiration date, likely if conversations are ongoing about the project.

In February 2020, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved transferring East Miller Park — at 998 E. Miller Street — to the Veterans Administration for an expansion of the cemetery.

Griffith said he was advised it would be best to have city council approval before taking the proposition to the VA.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis is the only national cemetery in Missouri with open burial spaces.

Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schreiber said he encourages the city to move forward with the offer because it will benefit the area young people with the new park and veterans with an expanded cemetery.

"Of course, we all know that sometimes the wheels of government don't move very fast at any level," he said.

Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer echoed the same sentiment.

"I think this is a win-win for both organizations," he said. "With enhancement of the park facility across the highway, if that serves more of the populace over there I think it's a benefit for that neighborhood."

Ward 4 Councilmen Ron Fitzwater and Derrick Spicer also voiced his support for the project.

"It is an amazing option and opportunities for our veterans and as Councilman Schreiber indicated this is a long time coming," Fitzwater said. "I appreciate all the work, appreciate your patience and working with us as we dealt with the issue with this critical issue."

Spicer said he appreciates the work the parks department and board put into the project.

"I really appreciate you guys working with the veterans," he said. "It means a lot."

When the proposal first came up in 2019, some community members spoke up against losing East Miller Park.

The proposed plan includes constructing a new park on the other side of U.S. 50, on East Elm Street.

The city already owns that property, but it would need to be moved to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department before it could be developed into a park.

The plan for the new park includes a 20-foot by 20-foot pavilion, a splash pad, playground area and a half basketball court.

Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Todd Spalding said designing the new park would likely take around six months and then building it would take nine to 12 months.

Plans also include an update to Park Place Neighborhood Park, which is a few blocks from East Miller Park.

Nobody at Monday's meeting, or the Sept. 20 meeting, spoke up against the project.

According to city council documents, cemetery plans would include a ceremonial plaza and multipurpose building on one end of the property next to the current parking lot, which would remain, and the rest of the site would be used for approximately 480 graves.

If the council does support the land transfer, the VA would need to accept it in order for the transaction to go through.

Other business

The council:

- Accepted a bid from All Seasons Roofing for the storage shed and truck shed at Hyde Park for $44,588.

- Approved a contract with OMNIA Partners with Michaelin Tires for city buses.

- Accepted the $675,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant.

- Accepted bids for excess workers' compensation and property insurances.

- Approved a $35,176 agreement with JCW Boonville Properties LLC for the elimination of the Westport pump station.

- Approved a $389,631 construction contract with SAK Construction LLC for a pipe-lining project.

- Amended the budget to include an additional Neighborhood Services specialist position within the Department of Planning and Protective Services to assist with the increase in federal funding.

- Amended the city code to allow the city administrator to have more real estate purchasing authority.

- Authorized an agreement with Ameren Missouri for street lighting.

- Amended city code to include the offense of second-degree trespassing to align with state law.

- Amend the personnel policy for standby pay to reflect approved funding requests in the 2022 city budget.

- Authorized an agreement with Midwest ATC Services for air traffic control services from Jan. 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021.

- Authorized a $62,910 construction contract with SLV Roofing for roof replacement at the salt shed at Hyde Park and the Pavitt Building at Jefferson City Memorial Airport. It would also approve the use of insurance money for part of the work and general fund money for the remaining expense.

- Authorized the extension of a memorandum of agreement with Cole County EMS.

- Authorized United Healthcare and Berkley Accident and Health to provide group health insurance for city employees.

- Authorized Principal for group dental insurance for city employees.

- Approved a $147,609 contract with Mid Missouri Earth Movers for the demolitions of 410 E. Hess Way, 320 E. Miller St., 417 E. Capitol Ave. and 528 E. Capitol Ave/202 Marshall St., which are declared dangerous by the city.

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