City ready ‘to watch the dirt turn’

By Dennis Minich

Harrisonville City Administrator Brad Ratliff closed his report at last week’s board of aldermen meeting with a simple forecast for the coming year, telling everyone to be ready to watch the dirt turn.

Ratliff expanded on those comments on Monday saying developments of the past year have positioned the city for growth.

“We’ve had 14 building permits this year for new homes after several years of zero,” Ratliff said. “We are getting considerable attention from commercial developers, the 291 corridor seems especially attractive to a lot of people and we have been contacted by various industries, but they are waiting to see. Companies don’t want to spend millions of dollars until they feel comfortable.”

One of the issues he addressed in that comfort index was infrastructure.

“We still have work to do with things like roadways and electrical service. Many of the roads are still maintained by the county, so developing our relationship with them is very important,” Ratliff said.

Although only on the job about a year, many elements to foster the growth have come about under Ratliff’s oversight. The major item, he said, was the approval by the board of aldermen for a comprehensive water and sewer plan which helped provide funding for flood prevention and repair of the lakes in City Park as well as paying for a required UV treatment system at the sewer plant, as well as providing new sewer lines on the south side of the town.

“We were really under the gun on the UV system, the dams in the park and the flooding on the south side of town. The board has allowed us to address these issues. We are getting things fixed.

“The retention pond in the Glen Eagle development will help with the flooding problems. It might not be the solution to all of the flooding, but in the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers study, this was one of its major recommendations. Dredging Lake Luna and City Lake will also have an effect on flooding, so these were all things we were able to address,” Ratliff said.

More flood relief will be available when work is done on South Street near the school district’s distribution center where the road and bridge will be reworked, paid for, in part, by a $993,000 grant from the federal government.

A large part of the increased sewer fund is being spent to run a sewer line down to the Walmart Distribution Center instead of refurbishing a packing plant which has been in use for 20 years.

“It’s economics 101. Over 20 years it will be cheaper to simply replace a pump at a lift station once in a while than having to redo the packing station. Plus, it allows us to connect others onto the line. Sapp Bros. has already annexed into the city and two other properties, the gas station and the motel, are both wanting to be annexed. And more will follow.

“The sewer line allows us to consider many different industries,” he said.

He noted Harrisonville has the advantage of an airport, rail spur and interstate highway.

“We can work to place businesses in areas where they can be serviced the best. If they need rail service, we can look at that part of town.

“If they need the interstate access, we have other areas and I think we could use our airport to look for air-related businesses,” he said.

Two important tasks necessary to help the city grow, in Ratliff’s opinion, are getting a long-range plan in place and finding working partners willing to help the city grow. The city is undertaking a review of its long-range plan and Ratliff said community input will be vital.

“It needs to be a living, breathing document,” he said. “We want community input. We want input from the businesses. We want groups to work with us, like the work of The Love the Square improvement district. The work they are doing is tremendous.

“We also need to work with the school district and county. We are the county seat and they own a lot of property here, so we all have to be willing to work together.”

Ratliff said a meeting with school and county officials is scheduled in January.

Ratliff points at some of the improvements which have been made, including some long-needed projects completed through COVID-19 funding.

Among those projects are renovations at city hall which include a renovated council chamber allowing for social distancing, and shower facilities at the police station.

City projects are likely to continue. He noted the park board will be prioritizing some projects at its upcoming meeting. He said the board will be considering plans for the area around the outdoor pool as well as at the community center.

Ratliff said many things have changed in a short amount of time, including personnel, codes and policies, but said the foundation has been laid for the future.

“I’ve heard it said, ‘Hey, what’s going on in Harrisonville?’ Believe me, the people up in Belton and Raymore are paying attention.”