Jefferson Junior parking lot addition moves ahead

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | 10:14 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Jefferson Junior High School parking lot addition is moving forward, despite continued opposition from some neighbors who believe that the project could increase flooding in the area.

Columbia Public Works Director John Glascock said after the Monday night City Council meeting that he would sign the flood plain permit Tuesday morning. The permit allows for the construction of 13 new spaces in the parking lot at the corner of Hickman Avenue and Sixth Street.

The permit will be the final piece that the Columbia Public Schools needs to continue work on the addition.

The Columbia Public School Board approved the parking lot addition at its Oct. 11 meeting. Excavation began Oct. 13. It was stopped the following day because the district needed clarification from the city council, said Charles Oestreich, the director of facilities and construction services for the school district.

Now that the district has approval from the city, it hopes to have the addition completed by mid-November, Oestreich said.

Glascock said he wanted to get the input of the City Council before signing the permit. 

The council, though, only discussed the issue briefly at the end of its meeting. Glascock wrote a report for council about a residential addition within a flood plain at 208 Pinewood Drive.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said the council should make sure the project did not worsen stormwater problems in the area.

Several residents showed up to the meeting to express their concerns about the parking lot to the council.

Pat Fowler, whose property is next to the addition, told the council that the floodwater system in the area has been a problem for many years but nothing has been done.

She has been active in attempting to find a solution, she said, that would fulfill the needs of the school but would minimize the impact of the parking lot on her property, such as a rain garden on her property line.  But none of the solutions or options she brought up were adopted into the plans, Fowler said.

“I did research on my house when I bought it. I thought I did a good job but I had no idea,” she said. “But I have a better idea now.”

She said that looking through city documents, she found accounts of major flooding in 1979 and 1981 but little had been done to fix the problem since then.

Fowler also spoke to the council about what she perceived as very poor service by several city staff members.

“There are informed, helpful people who work at various levels of city government and I want to applaud their work, their willingness, and belief that because the residents pay their bills, they’re entitled to information,” she said. “Unfortunately, I did not interact with many of them during this process.”

Fowler said that she was unhappy that the school board had approved the parking lot as part of an unpublished consent agenda. She said she plans to address the school board about this issue.

Despite her experience, Fowler said she felt that the time she invested in the issue was worth it.

“I’m never sorry when I advocate for my neighborhood,” she said after the meeting.

Missourian reporter Laura Kebede contributed to this article.

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