Joplin City Hall remodeling gaining steam

Apr. 29—Remodeling the second floor of Joplin City Hall to provide more office space for staff is proceeding on schedule.

In fact, the work could be done a little early, said City Manager Nick Edwards. It is a short project that is to be done within the next few weeks.

"Remodeling is being done so we can make way for a communications team," which is important to the city, he said. "We want to make sure we are engaging the public. What the city is doing has an impact on their daily lives. It's critical."

The city has millions of dollars in projects in upcoming years "and we have to do a much better job of communicating to the public how that may impact them," he said.

The Joplin City Council agreed in September to go forward with several new positions that were created under plans for community projects to be funded with use-tax revenue. That included the addition of a communications and marketing team, adding positions for a director of communications, webmaster and two communications specialists.

There have been council discussions periodically about the lack of information or difficulty accessing information on the city's website. In addition, the webpage has had few changes over a number of years. Council members and city administrators have said they receive complaints from people who want to use the site to access city information.

The city's first director of communications and marketing, Drew Douglas, recently came on board to lead the communications team. He had worked in that position for the city of Nixa since January 2017. He will oversee planning, coordination and management of the city's public information, civic engagement, media relations and marketing efforts, the city said in a recent announcement. His pay is $131,342.

The other positions are not filled yet. Once hired, the webmaster will be responsible for the design, organization and overall navigation of the city's website. That person will be paid $94,744. There also will be two communications specialists to be paid $61,358 each.

Providing office space for them and a new assistant within the city attorney's office is the purpose of remodeling the second floor of City Hall.

R.E. Smith Construction Co. is doing the interior renovations at a cost of $419,000. There were two bids for the project; the second bid came from Crossland Construction for $535,150.

Expansion of the city's communications effort, including the remodeling, also is being funded by revenue from the use tax that voters approved in 2021.

Because of the amount of grant money the city is to receive through federal funding, as well as from the city sales tax, "I don't think people realize what is going to happen here in the community in the next two years," Edwards said.

"We've got two parks projects that are in the process of being designed. We will soon see construction at Fourth Street and Murphy Boulevard and on 15th Street headed into Walmart. Connecticut Street (widening) is well underway," he said.

In addition, the construction of a high-speed, fiber-optic broadband service is coming as the result of a recent contract with Allo Fiber, which also operates as Allo Joplin.

"There will be a lot of construction activity associated with broadband," Edwards said. Residents also will see nine stormwater projects and a number of sewer line projects in various parts of the city over the next few years.

Joplin's City Hall building at 602 S. Main St. was built in 1910 and served as the home of Newman's, a department store, for more than 60 years. In 2005, the city of Joplin purchased and outfitted the five-story Chicago-style building to become City Hall.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.