Improvements to lighting at Mexico Memorial Airport are progressing after the Mexico City Council approved an ordinance Monday to execute a grant agreement with the Missouri Transportation Commission.

The Mexico City council met in-person Monday, but the public was restricted to entering the meeting room to keep gathering restrictions in place. The city streamed the city on Facebook and proceedings were posted to YouTube on Tuesday.

Mexico receives an allocation every year from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s aviation division. The funds come from the Federal Aviation Administration for small airports and if the money is not used within five years, it has to be returned to the FAA.

"We don’t want that to happen. We want to use those dollars here," Mexico Economic Development Director Russell Runge said.

The money will be applied to runway edge lighting. The council approved Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc. of St. Louis to provide professional services for the project in February.

The airport’s runway is 50 feet, which is too narrow, Runge said. The runway needs to be 60 feet, so new lighting will be placed an extra five feet on either side of the runway to make way for the eventual expansion.

"It needs new lights anyway because they are always breaking and popping and getting hit by snow plows and whatnot," Runge said.

The state block grant with MoDOT is a 90-10 agreement, with 90% of funds coming from the state.

MoDOT has allocated $22,500 from federal entitlement funds, while the city contribution is not to exceed $2,500. The city contribution is part of the 2019-20 budget.

Audit extension

The city approved in 2016 a four-year contract with Williams-Keepers LLC of Columbia to provide auditing services to the city. The contract ended Sept. 30. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the council considered a one-year contract extension.

"Williams-Keepers has extended an offer to complete the 2020 fiscal year-end audit under the same terms as 2019," Deputy City Manager Roger Haynes said.

Fees will remain at $32,650 for the financial statement audit and $3,000 for a single audit, if required.

The city will send out a request for proposals in 2021 to audit firms for services for that year through 2025.

The council approved the extension agreement offer.

Parks and recreation planning

When Gov. Mike Parson announced the date of the muncipal elections would be moved from April 7 to June 2, that had a direct impact on the Fairground pool construction project, Parks and Recreation Director Chad Shoemaker said.

"The construction development timeline is frozen," he said.

Since the election was delayed two months, contract development also is delayed two months. The delay was voluntary between the city and Westport Pools since a pandemic was not covered in the contract.

The June ballot includes the local use tax question, which would provide the city increased sales tax revenue from online sales.

"We will come back as the economic situation evolves and election results become available in June," Shoemaker said.

The department is looking to apply for a grant to help cover some of the project costs, which is awarded the second week of June.

The original construction timeline still is possible if Mexico voters approve the use tax in June, Shoemaker said.

"We were far enough along when this came down that we could get contract, design and building documents done and to the inspector and finished so we could meet our original timeline," he said.

The pool opening date could be delayed. American Red Cross training for lifeguards is suspended, so new guards are not able to attend training. Any life guards who had planned to continue for this year had their training approval extended.

Training has to be done before the pool could open, so there is the possibility the pool will not open for the 2020 season.

"We are about five to six weeks behind on that critical process and Red Cross has suspended training," Shoemaker said.

Council comments

Council member Vicki Briggs was pleased Audrain County currently has not had any positive cases of COVID-19, so far.

Council member Chris Williams acknowledged the Mexico Department of Public Safety, Audrain Ambulance District, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Audrain for being on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. He also encouraged people to remember the essential workers.

"In a time like this, be thankful we have a city that has a hospital," he said.

Council members Steve Nichols and Chris Williams also recognized front-line workers in their comments.

City Manager Bruce Slagle encouraged continued patience and understanding as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses or improves.

Mayor Ayanna Shivers was thankful to residents for abiding by shelter-in-place recommendations from the state.

"I’m very grateful that I live in Mexico," she said.