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Heritage Park partner cities, businesses gather for first meeting since pandemic, give updates


Howell County business and city representatives met Tuesday at Heritage Business Park, on U.S. 63 in Pomona, to share updates on business operations and the local economy.

Partnering towns and commercial entities spoke on operations and improvements, economic concerns and employment, and also gave updates regarding ongoing projects.

Presentations were given by local government officials including Mtn. View Mayor John Krasuski, Willow Springs Alderwoman Kim Rich, Howell County Presiding Commissioner Mark Collins and City Administrator Sam Anselm and Mayor Mike Topliff of West Plains. 

The dinnertime meeting was attended by about 30 city, county and business representatives, including members of area Chambers of Commerce. The meal was catered by Roscoe T’s Bar-B-Que, located in Mtn. View. 

Ozarks Development Corporation Marketing Committee Chairman and Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative CEO/General Manager Dan Singletary opened the meeting by talking about the past three years. He discussed continuing COVID-related impacts on business caused by COVID-related, including shutdowns and the suspension of in-person meetings to talk about city and county matters. 

Singletary talked about ongoing maintenance and improvement project at the business park, which includes Great Rivers Distributing, Caterpillar, Robinson Steel, RPS Laser, Pepsi MidAmerica, Air Evac Lifeteam, the West Plains Municipal Airport and the South Central Ozarks Council of Governments.   

Recent improvement projects have involved the sealing of roads; the cleaning, sealing and painting of the park’s water tank; and the maintenance of a lift pump and purchase of a new one as a backup, all part of being proactive in providing reliable and consistent service to the park’s tenants, Singletary commented. 



Mtn. View Mayor John Krasuski, who took office about three months ago and was on city council prior to that, said the city of Mtn. View has identified problems and set goals, and has prioritized human resources, finances and infrastructure to help build businesses. He noted the city’s electrical system is being updated and water, sewer and street improvements are in progress. 

A matching grant for repair and rebuilding of the city pool has been secured, and more grants have been applied for to aid in street and water system improvements. 

Krasuski praised Mtn. View council members for working together and being thorough in examining problems and looking at “all the angles” when searching for solutions. He was also optimistic about community involvement, adding, “We have fantastic people joining boards and committees,” assisting in planning for the future of Mtn. View. 

Willow Springs Ward 1 Alderwoman Kim Rich talked about new business developments in Willow Springs over the past couple of years, including the Bear Crossing Shopping Center, Bear Crossing Truck Wash and Tire Center, and Love’s Travel Stop on the south end of town. Downtown, the Willow Springs Motel was torn down and Family Dollar and Dollar General stores went in. 

Rich noted the city formed its first tax increment finance (TIF) commission to help secure funding for the removal of the motel and the construction of Family Dollar. 

Also downtown are H&M Ranch Store, Good Graces Pharmacy is in the area next to Subway, and the Willow Springs Chamber of Commerce is in the old Hocker Oil building. Eleven Point Cafe and Willow Tree Cafe are two new dining options, both located on Main Street. 

Projects in the works for Willow Springs are the conversion of the former Missouri Department of Transportation buildings into career and vocational/technical classrooms, and a partnership with the Willow Springs School District and the YMCA to build a new YMCA facility on district property. 



Howell County Presiding Commissioner Mark Collins admitted the last couple of years did present some challenges, but they also brought opportunities for economic growth and infrastructure improvement. 

He said American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding was able to help Arlee Home Fashions expand into the building that formerly housed Regal-Beloit and Marathon Electric at the intersection of south U.S. 63 and Lanton in West Plains. That move allowed the company to add 80 jobs.

ARPA funds are also going to be used to build and improve roads and bridges across the county, an undertaking that has long been overdue, Collins commented. 

New tax revenue during the first year the internet sales use tax was in place amounted to about $500,000, and it is expected to break $1 million in its most recent year. The internet sales use tax applies to purchases made online by sellers that don’t necessarily have a physical presence in a taxing jurisdiction, and is collected and distributed by the state to those local taxing entities that have opted, with the consent of voters, to receive it. 

“Howell County is growing and moving forward,” Collins said, and gave examples to show it: The Howell County Sheriff’s Office has purchased 7.5 acres, at the appraised value given 20 years ago, from Junior Stewart. The land is adjacent to the current property and was purchased in order to expand the sheriff’s office and jail. 

Collins added that “the county is in the best financial shape in its history,” with tax revenue up about 10% and internet sales use tax up about 50%. 



Anselm, who has been West Plains city administrator since April 2021 and had previously been city manager for Joplin, said he appreciated the opportunity to get to know a lot of people in the audience. He added he had taken a regional approach to development during his tenure in Joplin, and he is applying the same principle in his current job. 

Current efforts in West Plains include focusing on downtown revitalization and beginning an overpass project on U.S. 160 at Independence Drive, near the Leonardo DRS campus. The project will soon break ground after being in planning stages for 13 years. 

West Plains Mayor Mike Topliff added his appreciation for the passage, by voters, of the continuation of a capital improvement sales tax that has been in place since 1992 and was set to expire under a sunset provision. The tax was used to help fund projects like the building of the West Plains Civic Center and a new public library, and is now a permanent tax. 

Topliff added a new train bridge on St. Louis Street to the list of current projects Anselm mentioned, as well the use of ARPA funds on infrastructure and water and sewer improvements. 

As far as engagement with citizens and government transparency, Topliff said his administration is making an effort to meet with the public by “getting our faces out there and being friendly.” Those efforts include informal appearances like coffee with the mayor, and one social event Topliff had attended earlier that evening at Wages Brewing Company, intended as opportunities for the public to ask questions and get familiar with city administration in a casual setting. 

As far as transparency, Topliff and other city administrators are making an effort to keep citizens informed of the city’s budget process, and have changed the start of the city’s fiscal year to coincide with the beginning of the new calendar year, instead of from April to March,  in order to make the budget process less confusing.            

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