A Look From 1997 To 2017- Master Plan Vital To Continued Growth

Joyce Coates
Enterprise Staff
A Look From 1997 To 2017
Master Plan Vital To Continued Growth
Many people visiting Warsaw for the first time decide to park their cars and stroll along Main Street and the downtown area, pleasantly surprised at all the city has to offer, including the sights and sounds of the waterfront at Drake Harbor. Frequent visitors, like those who return during the annual Heritage Days, are more aware of changes that ongoing improvements are making. Some have said they notice that “There is something new here every year!” 
In fact, Warsaw’s appearance and infrastructure have improved markedly, especially over the last twenty years. A revitalized Main Street, the harbor redesigned and enhanced, and the municipal swimming pool that young people especially can enjoy every summer, are a few examples of what the city has accomplished by working together with citizens and local organizations toward a common goal – to make Warsaw a hometown to be proud of. 
Looking back 20 years to some not-to-be-despised small beginnings, on January 2, 1997, the Enterprise reported the newly-installed, $183K courthouse elevator was in operation; with four stops up and down! In the same edition, UMB bank welcomed a new company to town, Burr King Manufacturing, Inc. 
By January 9 news of Walmart’s bid to relocate to the Industrial Park drew immediate and wide attention. 
A motion passed to approve the purchase of a cell phone for the police chief, a technological step forward that was more significant for the long term than it seemed to be on January 23, 1997. Yet, most attention again went to news that the Mayor, Economic Board, several citizens, and two sisters who had sold the acreage to the city were opposed to the idea of authorizing a retailer (i.e., Walmart), to operate in the Industrial Park. 
Surprisingly, however, by February 6, the city council had voted 3 – 1 in favor of Walmart’s purchase. The victory was short-lived. The deal was suspended as reported on March 6, because Walmart allegedly had been negotiating at the same time for a different relocation site. (Hint: it all worked out for the better.)
Meanwhile, on a broader scale, City Administrator Randy Pogue recalls that the city was in a depressed condition when he came on board later in 1997. He was hired to help develop what became a three-phase, long-term Master Plan. The first and top priority was to revitalize the downtown waterfront area. Mayor White had been exploring ways to revive Warsaw’s economy, and met with representatives of Carthage, MO to review its Main Street improvement model. 
In July 1997, in support of the Warsaw plan, Dale Shipley, Randy Eaton, and Dick Sanford formed the Warsaw Downtown Riverfront Organization, Inc. (WDRO) as a nonprofit, 501(3)(c) organization, “to implement, direct and manage a Mainstreet program within the city of Warsaw…to take part in activities to promote the revitalization of Main Street and downtown Warsaw.”  
The organization is still active, and its official purpose broadened in 2000 to offer incentives to businesses to create jobs in Warsaw for residents. In 2005 the name changed to Warsaw Main Street, Inc. Numbers of officers/directors and the names of all but Randy Eaton have changed several times over the years. 
As for the Master Plan, Walmart gave the City a grant to support economic development downtown. WDRO income derived from Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credits, grants, and a commitment of funds from the City enabled it to deposit $20,000 into a revolving façade loan fund to start the revitalization projects.  
One building at 227 W. Main Street, restored to its early 1900s design, earned for the City the 1999 Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Award in the $5,000 to $15,000 cost category.
In the second phase, the City received the Catch the Growth – 2002 Excellence in Redevelopment Award for Public Improvements in city lighting and for repair/replacement of broken and deteriorated water and sewer lines that had been in service since 1932.
In November 2003 the city solicited bidders for rehabilitation of the Joe Dice Swinging Bridge that had been closed since 2000. It reopened in July 2007, providing outdoor enjoyment for locals and tourists as a trailhead that pedestrians, wheelchair users, bicyclists, hikers and dog-walkers can access for sightseeing of nature and wildlife along the Osage River.
The city solicited bids in September 2005 for work on the sewer main extension, based on a ten-year capital improvement plan at $5M. Treatment capacity had to improve for everyone’s sake, and to expand to support future economic growth. 
When the economic crisis hit, Warsaw’s preplanning and preparation put it among the first and the few with a “shovel ready” project. Voters had approved a $4M bond issue of which $2M was earmarked to meet a matching funds requirement for federal assistance. Therefore, the city received $2.25M in stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the ten-year project was completed in one year.
Significant and laudable accomplishments aside, the foresight, expertise and careful planning of local officials is not enough on its own. City Administrator Pogue appreciates the valuable and essential role that partnerships play. Federal and state government representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Missouri Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources have partnered with the city, as have utility companies KCP&L and Ameren, to design and complete projects and to advise and help apply for grant funding for them. 
Businessmen Paul Shinn and Larry Gerken were among private investors whose foresight and risk-taking contributed to economic growth in Warsaw.  In 1985, long before there was a Warsaw Master Plan, they bought and developed 25 acres of land in Truman Hills, built roads and installed water and sewer lines to attract buyers who wanted to start businesses there. 
By now, at least 5 new office buildings have opened, as well as a car wash, a Phillips 66 gas station and convenience store, an electric supply store, an auto parts store, a bank and a Sonic. 
Shinn, owner of Advantage Real Estate Agency with his wife, Mary, said the city has developed and expanded in stages, starting with the upgrades to downtown.  The beautification of Drake Harbor was “one of the greatest things to happen in Warsaw,” he said.
Shinn gives City Administrator, Randy Pogue, tremendous credit for Warsaw’s progress. Both take great pride in the city’s walking and bike trails. Brent Hugh, director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation wrote about the trails in August 2012. 
He wrote, in part, that “Warsaw has quietly become one of the best bicycle, pedestrian and trails cities in the state—and in the country. There is a lot here that other cities around Missouri can emulate. They turned the city’s riverfront into a beautiful attraction. The result is a more beautiful city with facilities that help improve the city’s health and help make the area’s economy healthy as well.”
Further, the federation designated Warsaw as a destination point along National Bike Route #51. 
Shinn listed some of the new businesses and services operating in each of the other Warsaw districts. In Northtown that runs from the bottom of Commercial Street to the Dam Access Road: two Medical Clinics, a Dollar Tree, State Farm, H&R Block, Walmart, a motel, Subway, McDonalds, Auto Parts stores, Show Me Physical Therapy, AT&T, and a car wash, among others.
Nearby, the Harbor Village complex on North Dam Access Road is the new location for Katy Trail, Pathways and Warsaw Senior Center that together provide healthcare, specialty classes at low cost, and operate a cafeteria. Without a doubt, the senior housing compound currently under construction adjacent to the Village will enhance the quality of life of its future residents.
On Shinn’s downtown list: Cosmic Coffee, a new fire station, a new ambulance station, a bank, and Casey’s, to name a few. In Eastgate: a Phillips 66 station and convenience store, two pizza parlors, a bank, a new Dollar General, a grocery store, a fitness center, a statuary store, a tattoo parlor and dog grooming business, among others.
A new hardware store and lumberyard, although located outside the city limits, Shinn said, are good for the city. Likewise, the new housing developments at Cedar Gate and Sterett Creek contribute to the city’s welfare by bringing in new residents who shop and conduct regular business within the city. No new housing is available in Warsaw, he said.
Turning to what is next, Pogue said people ask why the city has not focused on streets and sidewalks. The final phase of the Master Plan details the next project, which is to repair or build streets and sidewalks, gutters and curbs on Main, Van Buren, Jackson and Commercial Streets.
The city budget is showing 2-3 percent annual growth since going flat, but not in the red during the 2008-2009 downturn when many other similar cities suffered losses. The annual budget process looks at trends over the previous three years. Nevertheless, grant money making previous projects possible is essential to completing the Plan’s final projects.
Grants for road projects are more difficult to obtain than others because the city is competing against communities all over the U.S. Pogue applies each year for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Warsaw’s application was rated “highly recommended” three times but has not yet made it to the final selection process. 
Pogue’s presentations on proposed projects at a MODOT-Southwest regional conference last Friday, part of his ongoing “campaign” to stay visible and to be heard by grant-fund decision makers, had excellent results, especially considering the level of competition. Bates, Benton, McDonald and Taney counties form the four corners of the Southwest District.
Of the 23 proposals for pedestrian and bicycle project funding, Warsaw’s plan for pedestrian, bicycle, traffic turn lanes and intersection improvements on Main Street from Hwy 7 to Hwy 65 was rated “2” on the priority list.  The Top 5 move up to the State level for funding as soon as available.  
Two of Warsaw’s proposed road projects ranked within the Top 10 that move up to the State level for funding. A corridor study of Hwy 7 between Warsaw and Clinton for improvements to support increased traffic was rated “5”, and a project for improvements on Hwy 65 from the junction with Route 7-South was rated “8” out of 37 proposals.
Meanwhile, Warsaw has earned a good reputation within Missouri. Representatives from Eldon, Higginsville, Kimberling City, Lexington, and Stockton have come for presentations on Warsaw’s revitalization model. The Missouri Department of Economic Development recently asked Pogue to make a video they can use as a model for rural area projects. 
Considering the ups and downs in the City’s 197-year history, Warsaw has come a long way. First settled in 1820, traveled by steamboats in 1837, became county seat and incorporated in 1843, demolished and then burned down within a month’s time in 1861, burned down again in 1863; switched to railroads from 1880 until 1946, and so on and so forth…. 
And now, nearing the end of the year 2017, for all that has been accomplished, there is more work to be done. Pogue and Shinn agree that the outlook is good, and the atmosphere positive for continued economic growth. 
“There’s nothing negative,” Shinn said, “Warsaw really is a great place to live.”