A 76 Project was once again an area of discussion for aldermen, and although it started out with a favorable vote, it once again was ultimately voted down.
This will have been the fourth time the next step of the 76 Project – moving the overhead utility lines underground from Presley’s Theater to the Branson Ferris Wheel property – has been brought before the aldermen, with a different outcome each time.
During public comment Ann McDowell, president/executive director of Project Branson and communications consultant for the 76 entertainment CID, helped to set the mood by discussing the story of the goose who laid the golden eggs and stated that, “tourism is Branson’s goose and West Highway 76 is where she lives and lays her beautiful golden eggs.”
However, when it was time for the aldermen to have their discussion, the conversation began to stir.
“My argument again wasn’t that we shouldn’t do it, the question was is this the best use today (for the money),” said Kevin McConnell. “I had a real hard time saying that it is when we have other issues.”
“My concern all along has been the city’s financial condition. My primary concern was putting the city in a financially unstable position by allocating these funds for that purpose. In my mind there were stronger needs for that amount of money,” said Larry Milton. “Here’s what’s happened, over the last week, I put in a lot of hours dissecting our draft 2020 budget and specifically the tourism tax, and I will acknowledge that our city, in my opinion, is in a much better financial position than I initially thought.”
“The only remaining concern I have, and I’ve had this concern from the beginning, and that is continuing annual increases for our residences for increases in our water and sewer rates,” continued Milton. “In my mind I can clearly see a 2 % increase in water, a 2 % increase in sewer to keep up with inflation.
“So my ask is this. I’m asking the board if we could come up with a resolution that at least reduces to writing that this board’s intent is to put a cap and not to exceed 2 % increase on water and sewer rates maybe for the next five years.”
With what seemed like a general understanding or maybe even a general agreement, the board voted and the first reading passed with a vote of 4-2 with McConnell and Rick Castillon voting ‘no’.
Bill Skains then made a motion for a second reading and it was seconded by Brian Clonts.
Milton then argued that the motion for a second reading was not necessary because the project posed no urgency. McConnell then said he was also against an immediate second reading.
Castillon, Milton, McConnell voted against the motion to have a second reading. Mayor Edd Akers broke the tie with a yes vote, sending the item to an immediate second reading.
On second reading, McConnell voted against the measure, while Milton and Castillon abstained. That meant the item failed because it did not have the necessary four ‘yes’ votes.
This bill will have to come before the aldermen again as a first reading.