Liberty leaders talk 2019 successes, plans for 2020

The solar panels at Fountain Bluff Sports Complex are offsetting costs at the sports fields. The update is touted as a highlight of work completed in 2019 by Mayor Lyndell Brenton.

LIBERTY — In 2019, one of the largest Liberty infrastructure upgrades in recent years came with the opening of the reconstruction project that included the Interstate 35 bridge and expansion of Kansas Street.

Councilman Mike Hagan said the city should be proud of the reconstruction work.

“It’s one of the major accomplishments of the past decade,” Hagan said.

Although the bridge closing was disruptive in one way or another, the new bridge opened ahead of schedule and drivers are realizing the benefits of less lane traffic, said Councilman Gene Gentrup.

Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton said the collaborative effort with the Missouri Department of Transportation, Kansas City and Miles Excavating is to be applauded.

City leaders also said the groundbreaking for the new animal shelter was a highlight of 2019.

“This was a need left unaddressed for a long time,” Gentrup said.

Other highlights include work on updating neighborhood parks.

Hagan said the 2018 use tax passage gave parks a chance to be “spruced up.”

“It has been a real win,” he said. “Now City Park gets an inclusive playground and splash pad. It’s something I have been looking forward to for a long time.”

Councilman Greg Duncan participated in several of the neighborhood meetings to gather ideas for the local parks.

“All of our neighborhood parks have seen significant improvements funded by the new use tax with more upgrades still to be completed in 2020,” he said. “I’m proud our public art program is growing. We were able to install nine awesome pieces in the annual rotating art program downtown.”

Another important project completed in 2019 was the addition of artificial turf on ball fields at Fountain Bluff Sports Complex. Fountain Bluff is an economic engine for Liberty, Gentrup said.

“Not only does it provide a great place for kids and adults to play, it draws some of the biggest baseball and softball tournaments in the Midwest, putting visitors in our restaurants, motels and shops,” he said.

Brenton said the solar panel installations at the sports complex are important as they assist in making the complex more economical.

“It helps hold down costs,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2020, councilmen said they see a mixed bag of remaining focused on providing high quality services while also looking to more updates for parks and sidewalks.

Gentrup said he is excited to see major improvements to City Park, especially the “inclusive” playground to accommodate needs of all children.

“Simply because of its location, name and easy access, City Park is the most important park in Liberty. It should be inviting to all,” he said.

Duncan said City Park is at the top of his list, too.

”It will be exciting to see the newly configured space come to life, especially with the expanded amenities including inclusive play area and equipment. It will truly be a destination.”

Hagan and Gentrup worry about attracting and retaining employees, including police officers.

“We understand when some of our best and brightest are lured away to greater opportunities,” Gentrup said. That just reinforces that we do have good people serving our city. But it is not easy replacing them when other cities offer better incentives. We’ve got to find creative ways to attract new officers to our city.”

Hagan said 2020 may need a collective look at public safety recruitment.

“We passed the public safety sales tax, but Police Chief Jim Simpson has concerns about staffing,” Hagan said. “The money has been allocated, but we need to find a way to remain competitive.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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