Oakwood Golf Club east of Houston. 

The Houston City Council signaled its intentions Monday to purchase an almost 73-acre golf course and 6,000 square foot club house east of the community that is facing closure.

The news to buy Oakwood Golf Club, which has experienced several near-death experiences over the years, came during the council’s meeting. It isn’t the first time the city has considered the purchase. The most recent came in October 2017 when the council opted not to buy the nine-hole course. Ultimately, Doug and Michelle Moseley purchased the course that is situated off Highway B. They are the sellers to the city.

Scott Avery, city administrator, said following the council’s unanimous decision that the course is a community asset that city government didn’t want to close on Feb. 29. The purchase price is $291,500. The Moseleys also will acquire seven acres on North U.S. 63 east of a MoDOT facility in a closing expected Feb. 28.  Funds for the buyout will come from the city’s reserves. The city sent a letter to the business’ membership to call a meeting to discuss the transaction. It is 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23.

Avery said the course plays an important role in the services the community offers its citizens and marketing to prospective residents. Many charity organizations also use the course to raise money for their own endeavors, he said.

The Houston High School golf program uses it. Avery said the city also plans to rent the club house space for banquets and special events.

Under a plan described by Avery, the city’s parks and recreation department will oversee the course. Director Stetson Evetts will lead it. He reports to the Houston Parks and Recreation Board and Avery.

The council will take a final vote on the purchase on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

In other matters, members:

•Upon the recommendation of a Springfield insurance broker, Connell Insurance Inc., and a city employee panel of City Clerk Heather Sponsler, Police Chief Tim Ceplina, Economic Developer Rob Harrington and City Administrator Avery, the council approved a bolstered benefits package for the city’s workers. An Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield policy will not only pay benefits for employees that has lower deductible, but their families too with a higher deductible, Avery reported. The total outlay is about $61,000 less that what had been budgeted. Avery said the better insurance benefits will result for employees, including adding dental and vision coverage. He said there is no material price increase from coverage offered last year. Traditionally, with paid receipts, the city has reimbursed employees for some of their out-of-pocket expenses due to a high deductible, he said.

•Approved a contract with SCI Engineering Inc. to perform test sampling at the site of the new Houston Municipal Swimming Pool. The cost is not to exceed $19,159. Such things as concrete will tested. It also heard that a single bid had been received for construction of a bath house at the site. It is under review.

•Learned that a longtime Houston Police Department officer, Cpl. David Kidwell, will retire Feb. 29. Kidwell leaves the city’s employment after 34 years. Darren Ice began work in a new maintenance and inventory position Monday. Bill Ramsey joined the public grounds department earlier.

•Heard updates on city projects: Demolition of the city’s pool is progressing to make way for a new one. New carpet installation is under way for a remodeling of a portion of city hall.

•Heard Avery give a positive financial report on the recently completed fiscal year that resulted in a surplus and about the first month of 2020. After the meeting, Avery complimented city employees for their efforts on the completed budget year. An annual audit will provide additional information on the state of the city’s finances, he noted.

•Received an update on a local effort to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. Locally, about 350 signatures have been collected in the county to place the matter on the ballet. The goal is 500-1,000, reported an organizer, Janet Fraley of Houston. The effort is a move to assist rural institutions, such as Texas County Memorial Hospital, that serve a high poverty population and where hard-working residents can’t afford health insurance even while working full-time jobs. Several recent studies, she said, show that the realignment of coverage in Missouri could actually save tax money. A door-to-door campaign is planned next week in the county.

•Adjourned into a closed session. Avery said the talks were related to a negotiation, which he termed positive.

Avery gives update on city projects

Houston City Administrator Scott Avery gave an update Monday on several infrastructure projects to the Houston City Council.

Sewer line assessment: Visu-Sewer will conduct an assessment of a portion of the city within the next 90 days to determine troublespots that are leading to infiltration to the wastewater sewer plant. Avery outlined a recent problem in the west part of the town where a line was plugged with tree roots and the line crumbled. The cost is $200,000 with the city also doing a portion of the work.

Automatic meter readings: Receivers will be placed on poles soon to accommodate an automatic reading system of utilities. A region of the city has been identified for phase one implementation. The project involves electric meters and later water readings. The cost is $277,444 this year with about $160,000 coming from surplus funds.

Electric pole examination: An onsite meeting is planned with the vendor, Osmose Utilities Services Inc. Next month work that is expected to take about two weeks will begin to assess the poles, needs for replacement and generate mapping. The cost is $55 per pole for the system and includes a basic treatment. There are about 550 poles.

Fiber-to-the-home: On-site pre-construction work is under way as part of a 1 gig internet system that will be owned by the city. Training for a supervisor and technicians is scheduled. The plan calls for fiber to be installed initially from a city storm shelter south along U.S. 63 and west toward the city industrial park. Two rotating electrical department employees each day will work with contractors installing the system to gain experience. Bids will be sought from four bandwidth sources to connect to the city system. Connections will begin as early as July.

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