Hours before polls opened for city council elections, Springfield councilmembers met one last time to progress the city further in it’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
The April 5 meeting covered topics such as development, cleanup projects and their potentially impactful vote to move onto the next phase in Springfield’s Road To Recovery stood out. With Councilmember Ferguson recusing herself due to a conflict of interest, they voted unanimously 8-0 on Council Bill 2021-089 to move into the yellow phase.
The yellow phase lifts occupancy restrictions for all businesses, allows gatherings of up to 500 people, all while continuing to require masks in most public settings. Additionally, self-serve buffets are permitted to resume operation, but counter seating remains prohibited.
Complementing the end to occupancy limitation for most businesses, director of planning and development Mary Lily Smith proposed the continued waiving of application and permit fees for temporary sidewalk cafes. This bill, 2021-081, will be taken back up April 19.
Councilmember Abe McGull showed interest in maintaining this fee waiver and exploring the possibilities of making sidewalk cafes a permanent fixture of the community in a post-COVID world.
“The aesthetics of a (sidewalk cafe) is pleasing to a walkability type city,” McGull said. “I would like to see if we have good data that shows this is a positive thing; maybe we should continue to experiment with this going forward after the pandemic.”
Springfield’s Road to Recovery made it a step closer to what “after the pandemic” might look like. Public hearing was held on the matter of moving on to the yellow phase, with 8 speakers criticizing or praising the council’s handling of the pandemic. Discontent from citizens continued before the council voted to end occupancy restrictions that have been in place since Springfield’s initial lockdown.
“Never once did I think I’d have to make a decision that would save lives,” Councilmember Jan Fisk said.
Steve Edwards, the CEO and president of Cox Health, was encouraged to explain the effectiveness of masking by request of Councilmember Craig Hosmer following a speaker’s discontent with the continuation of Springfield’s mask mandate.
“We made a commitment that we were going to follow the recommendations of the health department and the experts,” Hosmer said in an interview following the meeting. “Steve Edwards is one of those people that are not afraid to say things that are true.”
A few days prior to the implementation of the yellow phase, Sean Barnhill, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department Public Information Administrator, iterated the necessary steps to move forward.
“Our recommendation is that at least two of the thresholds be met with the third making significant progress towards being met in order to move into the next phase,” Barnhill said. “Vaccine is the best defense we have against this virus and the variants and we hope to get as close to that 50% mark as possible before recommending that we move into the (green) phase.”
Prior to the vote on CB 2021-089, city manager Jason Gage provided his report that detailed the Jordan Creek Project, the Clean Green Springfield initiative to promote community wide cleanup and the implementation of a new crime reporting system adopted by the Springfield Police Department.
Other bills discussed include:
- 044 – Imposition of ShotSpotter Respond gunfire detection system
- 073 – Rezoning of 10 acres on Farm Road 182 for residential purposes
- 077 – Reallocate funding from the Comprehensive Housing Assistance Program to compliment CARES Act funds and help provide rental support to struggling tenants
- 078 – Proposal to repave and widen the stretch of Division Street between Glenstone Ave. and National Ave., repave and add sidewalk, and incorporate stormwater improvements
- 080 – Accept $424,623 from Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust to reline sewer systems
- 088 – Authorization for the Mayor to impose the Second Amendment for an Employment Agreement
Following another Monday night where pandemic related matters and the SGHD played prominent roles in the council’s decisions, Mayor McClure adjourned the April 5 meeting.
Springfield city council meetings can be viewed virtually on Facebook, at the City of Springfield, MO – Connect with SGF, or can be attended in-person contingent upon a sign-up and screening for COVID-19. They are held every other Monday at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers at the Historic City Hall.