A long-vacant tract of land in Chester could become city-owned property. with possible development of the site into a new police facility.
The City Council included $150,000 in the city's $19.8 million spending plan for 2019 for acquiring the property that formerly housed the Royal Hotel and restaurant. The appropriations bill was unanimously approved by the council on July2.
The hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1995 and has since sat vacant. The area has been used for various civic functions through the years, including the Popeye Picnic and Santa's Christmas cottage.
The property is currently owned by the Koeneman family. Jo Koeneman said she has had numerous inquiries about the property through the years but has never received a hard offer. She would like to see it developed and with the Memorial Park next to it, it would be ideal for the city to purchase it. The area could benefit the area businesses with additional parking space as well. Koeneman is ready to work with any potential buyer.
Alderman Donnie Clark emphasized that appropriations simply allow purchases to happen if the money is available. Mayor Tom Page would like to see the ground possibly used as a site for the construction of a new police department in the distant future.
In other council business, Police Chief Ryan Coffey noted the appropriations included the purchase of a new squad car. Coffey said currently they are short one vehicle and are behind schedule in replacing it. He will bring prices to be considered at the July 16 meeting. He is also working on a proposal to change the department to 12-hour shifts from the current 8-hour schedule. Coffey pointed to the benefits the city could receive if they are fully staffed with the 12-hour schedule, which includes less need for overtime and less reliance on part-time officers.
Coffey also announced several resignations within the department. Andrew Miller and Kenny Hill have resigned as a part-time radio dispatchers. Miller had been with the department for a short time but Hill had served in the position for nine years. Part-time Officer Kevin Woods, a thirty year veteran with the department, has retired from his position. Woods will be honored at a later date.
Buena Vista Street has been striped and signage has been placed and is open to traffic.
Alderman Ray Allison, Street Superintendent Randy Eggemeyer, and the Mayor scheduled a meeting with the Beautification committee at the river to discuss the locations for new signs, benches and trash bins.
The Council also approved Josh Ruch and Hunter Cushman as paid firefighters. They have been serving with the department in nonpaid status. Chief Marty Bert recommended them for these positions.
A special meeting has been set for 6 p.m. July 11 with Keith Moran of Moran Economic Development. Moran addressed the City Council last month about possibly joining an enterprise zone application. The meeting will allow both sides to discuss the proposal at length.