Icy streets couldn’t stop an overflow crowd from attending Tuesday night’s Pittsburg City Commission meeting, where commissioners voted 4-1 to keep Joplin Street near Pittsburg State University the way that it is.

Icy streets couldn’t stop an overflow crowd from attending Tuesday night’s Pittsburg City Commission meeting, where commissioners voted 4-1 to keep Joplin Street near Pittsburg State University the way that it is.
“I think the citizens of Pittsburg spoke,” said Jim Van Becelaere Jr., who spoke against the university’s plan, “and for once in government, the majority won.”
Eight citizens spoke during the public comment session, with all eight speaking against the changes.
John Lair said he thought putting up speed tables on Joplin Street between Cleveland Street and Lindburg Street would effectively close the street up, while Bob Stahl claimed that the area hadn’t seen an accident in 116 years. Van Becelaere said he was worried about the bump outs and speed tables becoming “the beginning of an erosion to close Joplin Street.”
Virginia Darling had probably the strongest words against it, referring to the university as “Big Brother,” from George Orwell’s “1984.”
After the public comment session closed, Howard Smith, PSU assistant to the president and legislative liaison, spoke to the commission about the project’s evolution, saying at one point, “we’ve actually trimmed it down.” Paul Stewart, PSU facilities planning director, then went over the plans with commissioners on a large diagram.
Before the commissioners spoke, City Attorney Henry Menghini said that Pittsburg Mayor Pam Henderson would be allowed to vote, as per the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Originally, Henderson said she planned to abstain, as she works at PSU.
Commissioner Bill Rushton chastised the university, calling the plan “ill-conceived”, and said it was poorly sold to the community. He also said the university approached the issue like it was going to force citizen consent.
“My brother doesn’t pee down my neck and tell me it’s raining,” Rushton said.
Commissioner Rudy Draper then said he didn’t feel that the infrastructure around that area was sufficient to make the changes, and expressed concerns that the changes would force the city to vacate a 1988 city ordinance naming Joplin Street as a major-through street.
Henderson said she didn’t see a major traffic problem, and seconded Draper’s concerns about infrastructure.
Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan then said he applauded PSU for its efforts to seek a compromise, and added that the bump outs added green space while not impeding traffic in any way. He referred to PSU’s plan as “certainly a palatable one.”
Commissioner Marty Beezley spoke last, stating that there were flaws in PSU’s plan, specifically the fact “that there really was no plan, developed together with the city.” She said that there should be more collaboration between both sides in the future.
After the discussion, Rushton made a motion to “keep Joplin the same as it is,” and the motion was seconded by Beezley. O’Bryan made the dissenting vote.
The vote was contrary to the Pittsburg Planning and Zoning Commission vote, where P&Z members voted 7-1 to approve PSU’s plans for the street.
All five commissioners attended the meeting. In other news, Pittsburg City Commissioners:
• approved a Economic Development Advisory Committee recommendation to approve funding from the sales tax revolving loan fund to pay for the city's 5 percent share of the Atkinson Municipal Airport Master Plan. Ninety-five percent of the project will be paid by the Federal Aviation Association.
• approved submitting an updated Airport Capital Improvement Plan to the FAA for possible future funding, to include construction of a parallel taxiway to Runway 16-34, the Five-Year Capital Improvement Program and the Long Range Needs Assessment.
• approved a Façade Grant Application by Zack Long, owner of the property located at 126 E. Third Street, in the amount of $1,498.88.
• approved an application submitted by Graig A. Moore, renewing the Dance Hall License for Mooreman's Club.
• approved the low bid submitted by Pittsburg Ford, Inc., of Pittsburg, for the purchase of three patrol vehicles at a price of $22,649 per vehicle, or a total purchase of $67,947.
• held a special presentation of a plaque from the Kansas Ready Mix Concrete Association for a construction award for the city's Stormwater Drainage Improvements project.

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134