Laura Miller George Help Center operations got a boost Monday after the Mexico City Council approved a yearly agreement appropriating $5,000 for the center.

The appropriation was part of the city's 2019-20 budget. Previous appropriations were in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The appropriation was increased to $10,000 from 2012-2016. The support level returned to $5,000 in 2017.

"Staff recommends the city of Mexico and the Help Center enter into an agreement and that council proceed with passage of the attached resolution," Mexico City Administrator Bruce Slagle said.

Help Center Executive Director Phil Iman was present to talk about where the appropriation goes, how it is used and who it serves. Funds the Help Center receives goes toward operations, along with what it receives through its thrift store, grants and donations.

"We provide supplemental food three times a week. Two of those are once monthly and the other is a weekly program," Iman said.

The weekly program comes from food donated by local grocery stores, while the once monthly program is food that comes to the Help Center from the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

"That is provided to anyone who comes in and fills out an application and expresses need for food," Iman said.

Anyone could receive aid at the center. The Food Bank provided a chart to Iman that showed 9% of participants use Help Center services throughout the year, while 22% use the service once in an entire year.

"That tells you a lot about the type of people we serve," he said. "They come when they need food, and if they don't feel like they need food, they don't come."

Iman provided an example of a family who ended up facing difficulties due to their health in their elderly years. "This gentleman stood in my office with tears in his eyes and said, 'I don't know what we would do without the food you provide,'" he said. "We're meeting a need that perhaps might go unmet any other way."

Iman invited council members to come see the Help Center and its operations. If any council member wanted more demographic information, Iman said he would be happy to provide it. Center volunteers work more than 1,000 volunteer hours per month, he said.

The council approved the appropriation 4-0. Council member Chris Williams was absent. During council comments at the end of the meeting, member Vicki Briggs said the Help Center also always needs one-use plastic grocery bags and egg cartons to help package food.

Council closer to roadside memorial decision

Current city ordinance does not allow roadside memorials in city limits for people who died in traffic accidents or other incidents, but that could change at the next city council meeting.

It was previously proposed to allow temporary memorials over a 90-day period, and the proposal has since increased to 180 days after the accident.

"A temporary roadside marker is not intended to create an obstruction for vehicular or pedestrian traffic, cause a visual impediment for vehicle traffic or create a nuisance," Slagle said reading from the draft ordinance language.

Markers could include one standard latin cross, Star of David or similar religious symbol of death of no more than 30-by-18 inches. They will be allowed within the public right-of-way to designate the site where a person or people had died. They must be placed at least 30 feet from intersections. Markers are not allowed on sidewalks or driving lanes of streets. One marker may be placed per person who died. The only allowed marker will be the religious symbol of death, which means nothing like figurines, wreaths or stuffed animals, which can be removed without notice.

"If the marker is not removed within the allowed length of time, city reserves the right to remove without notice," Slagle said reading from the draft ordinance.

City code requires property owners maintain a right-of-way to their property and so any memorial placed within an adjacent property owner's right-of-way can be removed at-will by the property owner.

A memorial will not be allowed if the person who died was committing a crime at the time of their death, which is consistent with similar ordinances implemented in other communities, Slagle said.

"This is referencing the individual who committed the crime, not the victim, because in most cases, this is about the victims," Slagle said.

Briggs asked if the ordinance would affect existing memorials. The ordinance would not apply to those memorials unless they have been in place for more than six months, Slagle said. The current regulations do not allow any roadside memorials.

"I think we discussed at one point possibly contacting those individuals [who placed the memorials] and give them that option to try to do it and maybe give them, I think we said at one point in our discussion to Dec. 31," Mayor Ayanna Shivers said.

The council has to make clear that under current ordinance the memorials are not allowed, but the city is moving toward allowing temporary memorials through a new ordinance, she added.

In other business:

Mexico resident Joshua Price asked if anything would be done about trees within street right-of-ways. He referenced the intersection of Hendricks Drive and Jefferson Street as one location with trees at intersection corners. Historically trees were allowed in the right-of-ways City Public Works Director Kensey Russell said, so larger mature trees were permitted. An ordinance was put in place in recent years prohibiting new trees in right-of-ways, but it does not apply to pre-existing trees, Shivers said. City council member Steve Nichols met with Price after the meeting to review the issue.