Council discusses parks, new bus color schemes

The new busses will be painted black and gold with a tiger tail on the back.

The Columbia City Council considered a bill concerning the already-passed Parks Tax and to pass a bill calling for appearance changes to the bus shuttles with routes through MU, Stephens College and Columbia College at a meeting Monday. A bill to revoke an ordinance accepting money to energize homes in Missouri was also discussed.

An ordinance to extend the Parks and Recreation sales tax of one-eighth of 1 percent for another five years to fund local parks is now up for discussion and expected to be passed.

Additionally, the council is deliberating aspects of the renovation of the Heibel March building in Columbia. Commissioners of several organizations in Missouri have attempted and failed to raise enough funds to remodel and use the building.

But Legacy Construction Group, a construction firm, proposed to use the Heibel March as its headquarters.

Some Parks and Recreation staff members, including Linda Hutton and Bill Pauls, think the building should have been removed years before to provide more green space for the park, a report on the issue said.

The report recommended the council accept Legacy Construction's proposal, open the process for proposals or remove the building entirely to develop more parkland.

Council members also passed a bill enacting color scheme changes to bus shuttles in Columbia. The new color scheme is black and gold with a tiger's tail detailed on the end of the bus.

Although buses are not normally assigned to university routes, one paint scheme is more practical for transit, Public Works Department Director John Glascock said.

"What would our town look like without the University of Missouri?" Third Ward councilman Gary Kespohl said.

The changes were brought into discussion after the council brought up the increase in transit ridership in Columbia during the 2010 fiscal year. The economic downturn and the reduction of gas prices were stated in supporting documents as factors that transit agencies thought would result in ridership decline. But Columbia Transit finished the fiscal year with a growth of .9 percent, despite declines in transit ridership nationwide.

After Columbia's Water and Light Department was awarded a grant of more than $300,000 by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the council is also considering an ordinance authorized by City Manager Bill Watkins to appropriate the money to provide utility assistance for Missouri homeowners to save money on energy consumption.

The Water and Light Department applied for the grant in order to increase energy efficiency, but the council wants to reject the grant because of issues between the Department of Natural Resources and the City of Columbia that have not been resolved yet.

"We ran into issues of open records," Watkins said. "We just couldn't get them resolved."

Mayor Bob McDavid also presented the Meritorious Service Medal at the opening of the meetings to officers Matt Gremore and Brian Graff, who pulled a 14-year-old boy standing outside of the safety railing of a North Providence Road bridge to safety.

Officer Gremore, with mother Kathy Gremore standing by his side, and Officer Graff, who was with his wife Teresa Graff, were awarded a pin and plaque for their acts of service.

"This award is issued to an officer for either, number one, performing an act not required by the nature of his or her employment and involving a substantial risk," he said. "Or, number two, performing an act that resulted in saving a human life."

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