Addressing 'eyesore' Y intersection a priority for cityAugust 23, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — With a new comprehensive plan approved, City of Jasper officials, board members and employees gathered on Thursday to discuss and rank the priority of 34 potential projects that could take place across the city.
After laying them all out, the 20 people in attendance sorted the ideas into a top-20 list that weighed their estimated costs, complexity, timing, available resources, code and statute compliance, economic impact, and their impact on quality of life.
Following discussions and two rounds of voting, the top six issues were: addressing the CVS-owned, former Ditto Sales building at the Y intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 56; revitalizing downtown; decommissioning and selling the Ruxer Golf Course; replacing and extending the sidewalk along U.S. 231; purchasing a ladder truck for the city’s volunteer fire department; constructing an aquatic center; and addressing stormwater drainage issues at Leslie Drive and 34th Street.
Ultimately, all of the ideas discussed would require the approval of city boards.
“We, as the people of Jasper, have some awesome projects in mind,” Lisa Schmidt, a member of the Jasper Plan Commission and the facilitator of Thursday’s meeting, told those in attendance. “A lot of stuff we want to do. We can do everything, we just can’t do it all at once.”
When it comes to the building at the Y intersection — located on the city’s west side — Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide said he thinks there is an opportunity to acquire that property and potentially demolish the building, which could pave the way to a new development on the land.
Jasper Fire Chief Kenny Hochgesang expressed interest in possibly making it the home of a west side fire station, if the property is acquired.
“It’s an eyesore,” Vonderheide said of the current building. “Everybody complains about it. I’ve got more phone calls on that property than any other property in the city.”
He said he’s now looking into acquiring that property. What would go up on it and how that would be funded in the future has yet to be determined.
Schmidt stressed that none of the discussed ideas would be thrown out at the meeting’s conclusion, and that they are still on the city’s radar. The goal for the day was simply to find a consensus.
Early in the meeting, Vonderheide ran through the long list of ideas. It was diverse, and included everything from infrastructure endeavors to economic development projects.
Among the possibilities that weren’t listed above were supporting the creation of a solar energy park, providing relocation bonuses for new residents, bringing accessibility improvements to the Jasper Arts Center, improving various infrastructure items and many more.
“And we’re not gonna lose them,” Vonderheide said of the projects that didn’t crack into the group’s top spots. “But it just gives us an idea of ... like, at the top of the list, here are the ones that we really need to focus on, get moving on, here’s the rest of them, and we’ll keep working through that in communication through the [redevelopment commission] and all the commissions and boards that we have.
“That, I think, is what I wanted to get out of this,” Vonderheide added. “What do you feel is the most important? Where do we need to go? How do we need to communicate? And I think this gives me a good sense for that.”
Those in attendance were pleased with the results that came from bringing everyone together. New councilman Phil Mundy asked fellow council member Nancy Eckerle if the city hosts the planning event every year. A gathering like it had never been organized to Eckerle’s knowledge, and she said she loved that all the people were gathered around the table to share their opinions.
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