An out-of-budget request to lower Ameren-owned gas mains from the Mexico Public Works Department caused consternation Monday among the city council.

The city budgeted $55,000 to extend Falcon Drive from Fairground to Amelia Street in the Teal Lake Village subdivision. Two Ameren gas mains were discovered as part of the design portion of the street extension. Lowering the lines is estimated to cost an additional $31,524, making total project cost potentially $86,524. The city took over street, sewer and stormwater maintenance of Teal Lake Village in August.

Ameren owned the land in which the mains are located prior to the development and construction of streets and rights-of-way, which the city took on. Ameren retained its rights for the utilities. "So, the cost of relocation of the two mains will be on the responsibility of the city," City Engineer Drew Williford said.

The city is interested in proceeding with covering the cost of relocation. One of the mains is a six-inch steel line, which feeds the south area of Mexico, according to the council packet. The estimated additional cost was provided to the city by Ameren.

There initially were supposed to be two subdivision developments in the same area along Teal Lake, one of which was Teal Lake Village, council member Chris Williams said. The other development never happened.

"So, the idea behind Falcon Street was to have it all the way through [to the second development]. Now there isn't a second project there, so I question spending $100,000 on a project that really doesn't benefit anybody except that one little area," he said.

The additional project cost and even the street extension budget could go to other projects in town such as Americans With Disabilities Act sidewalk compliance, road resurfacing and the sewers, he said.

Teal Lake Village is a dead-end street with only one entrance into the subdivision at Amelia. The city, as a way to plan for the future, wanted to develop the Falcon Street extension so there is another entrance to the Teal Lake subdivision and to have a roadway in place for any future development east of Teal Lake, Public Works Director Kensey Russell said.

"We don't have any idea what future development could occur there, but it's not going to be landlocked. There will be an access from Falcon," he said.

The Falcon street extension and lowering of gas lines still could be done once the city knows another development is planned, Williams said. The Falcon Drive extension into Teal Lake also will increase emergency access to the subdivision, Russell said. Amelia Street is 866 feet long. The Falcon extension would connect with Amelia at around the 570-foot mark. Council member Steve Nichols liked the idea of increased emergency response access.

"We could always go back and do this [extension] at a later time, right? We have the access rights, they don't go away, right?" Williams asked. Williford concurred on the access rights question.

What is the advantage of lowering the gas lines now than at a later time, council member Vicki Briggs asked. Lowering the lines and extending the street will give increased pedestrian access out of the neighboring Birdland development, Russell said. The sidewalk isn't all the way through, but the connection would get a sidewalk three-quarters through.

Russell agreed that construction timing for the street extension is at the council's discretion, but said the extension project has been a planned item for a couple of years. Construction costs could increase if the council were to delay, Briggs said. Future costs could be more Williams agreed, but at present, he didn't see how the street extension would offer enough benefits.

"To be honest, most people on Falcon are not thrilled about this anyway. I hear about it at work all the time. They're not clamoring for it, so I don't know. Take that any way you want," Williams said.

The extension should be looked at from a city planning standpoint, Willford said. "If you try to tackle everything all at once, it becomes very difficult from a budgetary standpoint. That's why we try to have a five-year capital plan and this [extension] was part of that," he said.

The street extension project would include sidewalks leading into Teal Lake Village. Roughly 100 feet, Russell said.

"So, we're sidewalking their property? Why [isn't] Teal Lake doing it?," council member Chris Miller asked.

The sidewalk should probably have been included in Teal Lake's original plans, Russell said. Miller asked if Russell and Williford could go back to the Teal Lake developers and see if they would cover the costs of the sidewalk. Teal Lake Village still is considered under construction. "I don't know what kind of answer we would get, but that's something that can be done," Russell said.

It seemed like objections surrounding Teal Lake recently stemmed from people who do not like the amount neighborhood residents in the community using Section 8 Housing and Urban Development money, Mayor Ayanna Shivers said.

"Are we more concerned about adding to the street that could potentially help us if some other place is looking to add a development or are we going to be focused on the fact that it looks like we're trying to take away certain things from potential residents that live in a certain community," she said.

The extension of Falcon Drive into Teal Lake Village is not about HUD, but that the promised development is not what was constructed, Williams said. Teal Lake Village was developed as 50% workforce housing. At the August council meeting, development consultant Pete Ramsel confirmed that 20% of the units in the subdivision are workforce housing, which means those residents do not need financial assistance. Since Teal Lake is alleged to have misrepresented the project, Williams could not justify spending more money at this time on a project benefitting one neighborhood.

"The people who live there are residents and taxpayers of Mexico,” Shivers said to Williams. “They have just as much right as anyone else to have nice roads, to have safe access and entrances as anybody else.”

If it is about money, then let it be about that, she added.

"[The extension] is something we were budgeting for. It was in our five-year plan that we've already talked about,” she said. “They're not just popping up and saying we're doing this all of a sudden. We have to be careful of how we're bringing up objections because it can be taken the wrong way.”

This is about a project that is costing more than was originally budgeted and that the money could be used in a way that would affect more than just one neighborhood, Williams said. "I'm not saying we can't do the project ... but so far I haven't really heard a good reason yet to build it," he said.

Is the extension project a given, Briggs asked. The extension of Falcon will have to be done at some point if there is future subdivision development. Without the extension as an additional access point nothing else could be developed due to city codes, City Manager Bruce Slagle said.

The council decided to table a decision on lowering the gas lines since there are additional questions, such as sidewalk construction. The utility lowering would have to happen before construction on the extension. Miller suggested including the gas line lowering as part of the street construction project, rather than as a separate item.

In other business:

Mexico City Council approved an ordinance to vacate a 12-foot-wide north/south alley in the Highland Addition. Boundary streets around the alley are Vine, Hendricks, North Clark and North Washington. The city received a request to vacate from Matthew and Chanel Stephens who have a property at 221 Hendricks. Adjacent property owners, utilities and public safety had no objections. The alley has not been improved or maintained by the city and is not necessary for city improvement, according to the council packet. The vacated alley will return to adjacent lot owners of the alley. Utilities will retain easements in the alley. Council approved filing dates for the April 7 election. Two seats are opening on the council for three-year terms. Candidates can file with the city clerk from Dec. 17 through Jan. 21 at Mexico City Hall. Council approved a bid of $41,702.91 from SHI International of Somerset, New Jersey, and Huber and Associates of Jefferson City for an IBM virtual server and its installation for the city's IT/Administrative Services department. The new equipment will double the city's data storage and memory. The 2019-20 budget allowed for up to $62,400 for the server. Council approved a bid from Landmark Dodge of Independence for the purchase of two 2020 Dodge Durango patrol vehicles for the public safety department. This is part of the department's annual rotation of patrol vehicles. Landmark provided the only bid for $68,548. This is greater than the $62,000 budget. However, the city is expected to receive an insurance settlement for a 2015 Ford Taurus that was struck by a deer Oct. 19, totaling the vehicle. The department originally had planned on trading in the Taurus. The department also did a trade-in for a 2009 Chevrolet Impala. Vehicles selected to go out of rotation have high mileage, are older models or have increasing repair costs. Roger Dubbert, Phyllis Hornbeck and Mark Stuart were returned to three-year terms on the Mexico Airport Advisory Board. Michael Myers was selected to serve a three-year term on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Martin Keller will fill a position on the Mexico Housing Authority Board expiring June 2020. James Medley was selected to serve on a vacant position on the Zoning Board of Adjustment through June 2021.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com