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Board adjusts focus of overpass project

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

In a rather unexpected change in direction, Dexter's aldermen expanded the scope of the railroad overpass project Monday evening. In a 4-2 vote, the Board of Aldermen agreed to continue to explore the possibility of a railroad overpass in the community, but to seek information concerning possible sites other than the Anna Drive Extension. Voting in favor of the change in scope were aldermen Tim Crutchfield, Mark Snider, Larry Warren and M.A. Hart; voting against the proposal were Jerry Walls and Butch Waldrup. The move to expand the scope of the work on an overpass came during the Aldermanic Forum during Monday's regular meeting of the board.

"I don't have a problem with the overpass," Alderman Tim Crutchfield said at the beginning of the Aldermanic Forum. Crutchfield expressed some concerns about an agreement between the city and local businessman Ron Sells. Sells has agreed to give to the city over nine acres of land that can be used as a part of an overpass project and Anna Drive extension. Crutchfield pointed out that he had some questions concerning an agreement between the city and Sells. Alderman Mark Snider agreed with Crutchfield in his concerns about the agreement, noting that the agreement between the city and Sells was not presented to aldermen in their Oct. 3 executive session. During that meeting aldermen voted to proceed with the Anna Drive project. "We did not vote on this agreement," Snider said. He noted that it has been said the agreement was signed by Sells the afternoon prior to the closed aldermanic meeting. "It looks to me that, we as a council, if we were going to go into closed session, we should have had a copy of this agreement." The agreement notes that if an overpass is not constructed within three years, the property would return to Sells. Snider said he was under the impression was going to be donated "free and clear with no strings attached. There are some things here that I feel we should have seen at that closed council meeting."

Snider stressed too that in the closed meeting aldermen voted to proceed with the proposed overpass and the possible condemnation of property owned by developers Paul and Mary Douglass and Rex and Donna Keller. The land would be necessary for a roadway off the overpass to connect with Anna Drive. "We did not vote on an agreement," Snider pointed out. "The more I look at it, the more I'm beginning to feel there's a lot of things we're not being told," Crutchfield added. Alderman M.A. Hart concurred with Crutchfield and Snider. Hart, who has served on the city board for over 24 years, stated at last week's public hearing on the overpass that he "made a mistake" in voting in favor of the project as presented in the Oct. 3 closed meeting. "There are some things that have come out that we didn't know about," Hart stated. "There are some things that have surfaced since that closed meeting." The frustration of the aldermen concerning the project and the complexities that have arisen was obvious. Alderman Larry Warren, who had been quiet during the discussion, voiced his irritation with the process.

"I don't have a problem with the overpass, and I didn't dream it would be the problem it has been," Warren commented. "But I've come to the a point that I don't care if we get it or not. I'm just kind of fed up with the whole darn thing." Warren mentioned that if the controversy on the overpass project were a family squabble something would have to be done to smooth feelings. ""We've got a lot animosity here coming and going in three directions -- this board, the committee, the residents. Nobody's going to win here," he added. "If this was a family issue I think we would say 'stop, wait a minute, let's talk it over'." Eventually, aldermen agreed to a motion to amend the Oct. 3 vote to include an investigation of other possible sites. Mayor Joe Weber noted that the firm that prepared the city's Strategic Action Plan has been contacted and would hopefully have a bid prepared by the next board meeting on a price for a feasibility study. "Nobody wants to force it on anyone," Weber said. A contingent of local residents were on hand for Monday evening's board meeting, as well as Harold Williams and Les Booher, both members of the Transportation, Planning and Design Committee which has been working on the overpass project. Annabeth Miller may be reached via e-mail at amiller@dailystatesman.com.

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