Willow Springs: Where Memories Are Made

In downtown Willow Springs, across the street from Pizza Americana on Main Street, there is a small park with murals which depict the community’s history and the natural beauty of the area. Visitors can take a break here under the shade of a willow tree.

Changes to the Willow Springs Fire Department, a 2020 year-end review and a highway safety grant were among the highlights of the February meeting of the Willow Springs Board of Aldermen.

City Administrator Beverly Hicks presented a proposed ordinance to make changes to the fire department policies, including how the fire chief is hired and removed.

She explained that with the resignation of former Chief Donald Worley, who served in that role from December 2018 to November 2020, now is the time to update the qualifications necessary for the position, as well as the steps needed to appoint a new chief.

After researching other city ordinances, Hicks said she believes it is apparent that the next fire chief must have a certification of Fireman I and II, along with Incident Command System (ICS) 100, 200, 700 and 800 certifications.

Hicks said she realizes the training may not be readily available in a small rural area, but it is key to make sure that training can be accessed within a reasonable amount of time.

With the passage of the proposal, the mayor, with approval of the board of aldermen, would be able to appoint and remove a fire chief.

Other changes include removing the requirement for the department to staff a minimum of 12 citizens age 18 years or older, instead calling for staff to include a fire chief and “as many firefighters deemed necessary to provide adequate fire protection” for the city.

Hicks said her next steps, if aldermen approve the bill, would be to meet with the fire department to gather opinions and let the staff know of the changes, then to put together a job description allowing the public to apply for the fire chief position.

Hicks expressed her belief that it’s important for firemen’s opinions to be heard, but it is also important for the council to be involved in the selection of the new fire chief.

After a new fire chief is hired, Hicks said, she would like to see him or her involved in writing the department’s new standard operating procedure.

Aldermen unanimously passed the ordinance during Thursday’s meeting.

Asked how the changes will affect the form of the fire department, Hicks responded that they won’t, other than to make the fire chief appointed rather than elected by members of the department.

She said she plans to meet with the fire department March 3 to hear their concerns and opinions. Her goal is to have everything together by the next council meeting on March 18.

2020 YEAR IN REVIEW

Hicks also presented a 2020 year-end review to the council, calling it “a year of many uncertainties,” which required an amendment to the budget in July to help the city remain financially healthy.

She began with the May 4 weather event which brought “tornadic-like” features, uprooting trees and causing power outages citywide.

Electric crews from Mtn. View, Cabool and West Plains assisted with restoring electric services. The city of Willow Springs spent about $300,000 on cleanup and utility service restoration after the storm, said Hicks. She said that insurance proceeds from claims have already been received, along with a partial reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief in the amount of $91,000.

Willow Springs applied for and received funding through the CARES Act and was awarded $110,298 for recovery of bad utility debts, personal protective equipment, upgrades to police department software and other unexpected expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city also spent money on repair and replacement of pumps for the Wastewater Treatment Plant, a small welder, an electrical fault locator, two loads of utility poles, electrical switchgear for economic development at the South Junction of U.S. 63 and U.S. 60, boring services to expand utilities for the truck wash, Tasers for the police department and two vehicles for that department, Hicks recounted. The total capital expense for the year, including economic development expansion and upgrades, was about $769,000.

Two new projects also began in 2020: the Family Dollar Store being built on the site of the former Willow Springs Motel on Main Street under a Tax Increment Financing district, and the new Dollar General location under construction across the street, at the former Sonic location. Both are planned to open by late spring.

“Despite the challenges experienced in 2020, it remained successful,” Hicks said, voicing optimism about 2021. “Willow Springs is strong financially and motivationally.”

OTHER ACTIONS

The council also approved a Missouri Department of Transportation Highway Safety Program grant. According to Assistant Police Chief Wes Ellison, the grant is provided through MoDOT and is fully funded. The grant will be applied toward officers’ overtime hours.

The program’s purpose is to look for and address various hazardous moving violations, and the police department applies for the grant each year.

A resolution to allow the City Clerk Heather Duddridge to sign signature cards on behalf of the city with its financial institutions was also approved by the council.

Hicks stated that changing the names on the city’s finance accounts is necessary from time to time, and Duddridge’s recent appointment to her position necessitated her addition to the accounts. She said other names on the accounts are hers, Deputy City Clerk Gena Brook and Mayor Brooke Fair.

Pat Stuart was appointed to the Airport Board, filling a vacancy left by Phil Knott. Tom White and John Bailey from the Airport Board spoke on Stuart’s behalf. Bailey discussed Stuart’s familiarity of the airport and general aviation knowledge.

Certain public records were approved for destruction as they met the state requirements for destruction. City records approved for destruction included utility files from 2011 to 2014, accounts payable from 2011 to 2015, deposits from 2011, receipt management from 2012 and 2014, and general ledger for 2014.

Police records approved for destruction included open records such as minor traffic and animal control, and major traffic and serious ordinance violations, all disposed in 2017, and closed records for cases dismissed in 2017, minor traffic and animal control reports disposed in 2017, and major traffic and serious ordinance violations disposed in 2008.

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