The Jefferson Avenue footbridge was built by the American Bridge Company in 1902. It was made to carry pedestrians and cyclists over a rail yard between Commercial Street and Chase Street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

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Renovations to the Springfield Art Museum and the rehabilitation of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge are among the projects in line for funding through a $26 million bond package.

The Springfield City Council held a public hearing on the bond package May 20, and will vote on the measure on June 10. The City Council gave preliminary approval to a phased approach for the renovating the Art Museum and a $10.8 million bid for the footbridge project.

Art Museum Board members, Commercial Street advocates and other Springfield residents voiced their support of the bond package and commended the City Council for backing the projects at the Monday night meeting.

The special obligation bonds will also help fund the relocation of the Missouri Job Center from a Sunshine Street shopping center to downtown Springfield and renovation of Historic City Hall. 

Council members agree to $10.8 million approach for footbridge

With $8.4 million secured, and up to $4 million in funding from the bond package, the rehabilitation of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is imminent, eight years after the iconic footbridge was closed to pedestrians

The $8.4 million available for the project includes $7.8 million from the $8 million allocation in the 2023 state budget, $545,000 in sales tax revenues and a $50,000 contribution from the Commercial Club.

In a May 21 study session, council members gave preliminary approval to a $10.8 million approach to refurbishing the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge — the most comprehensive and expensive of four options. A majority of attendees at a May 16 public meeting voiced support for the costlier approach.

The four options feature different combinations of components to encourage participation of contractors during the bidding process. Only one company, Branco Enterprises, ultimately bid on the project. 

The approach includes the removal and replacement of lead-based paint, the retention of the extended stairway on the south end of the bridge at Commercial Street, the addition of elevators and other ADA-compliant improvements to restore the bridge while retaining its historical significance.

While more costly than the other options, the City Council’s approach should provide a longer lifecycle for the bridge, between 20-25 years, before major maintenance is needed.

Outside of the four options, all of which Branco Enterprises provided bids for, the City Council could have opted to wait or rebid the project, which has significantly increased in cost since it initially went out to bid in 2021.

“I think rebidding is not an option, waiting is not an option,” Mayor Ken McClure said at the May 21 meeting. “In my view, I think that we have to do the best that we can on that, and that’s the $10.8 (million), with the $8.4 (million) available and the $2.4 (million) with bonding. We need to get this done, we need to do it right.”

Several council members concurred with McClure. The City Council will formally vote on awarding the bid to Branco for the project at a later meeting. 

Bonding covers first phase of Art Museum renovations

Of the $26 million bond package, about $14.5 is earmarked for renovations to the Springfield Art Museum. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

The bulk of the bond package, to a tune of about $14.5 million, is earmarked for the Springfield Art Museum. The museum on National Avenue and East Bennett Street is set to close for renovations in September. Originally estimated at $25 million, the cost of the project has ballooned to $49.75 million, largely due to inflation and additions to the plan.

In March, the City Council weighed three possible options on how to fund the project, and selected the approach that divides the project into a $26.15 million first phase and a $23.6 million second phase. 

The special obligation bonds will help cover the first phase of the project, which includes a new education wing, gallery space and mechanical upgrades. The 2028 Campaign, named for the museum’s 100th anniversary, has raised $16 million for the project, $4 million of which has been spent. 

The $51.7 billion state budget awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s approval — or maybe vetoes — currently boasts a $10 million appropriation for the project.

Board member seeks better communication on Missouri Job Center move

The Workforce Development Board was provided notice of the relocation of the Missouri Job Center, where it is a tenant, on May 14, according to board member Andrea Sitzes. (Photo by Jack McGee)

The remainder of the bond package will help finance the renovation of Historic City Hall and relocation of the Missouri Job Center and the city’s Department of Workforce Development.

The bond package includes about $4.4 million for City Hall and $1.9 million for the acquisition and renovation of a new Workforce Development building.

An accompanying council bill reallocates $4.4 million in carryover funds originally earmarked for City Hall to the Workforce Development building project — hence City Hall’s inclusion in the bond package. The shift in funds is being considered in order to “address some tax-exempt financing issues for the Workforce Development building as it relates to the required partners that Workforce Development has within their building,” according to David Holtmann, the City of Springfield’s director of finance. 

One of those partners expressed concern with the “short window of notice” provided to the Workforce Development Board of the relocation of the Missouri Job Center. While a city department, Workforce Development operates under the guidance of the board and Council of Elected Officials, or CLEO, which is made of seven county commissioners, and serves a seven-county region.

Workforce Development Board member Andrea Sitzes said the board was notified through an email of the upcoming move on May 14. Sitzes requested the reallocation be tabled and the Workforce Development component be “carved out” of the bond package. 

“In our discussions with CLEO members — and again, we’ve had a short window of notice in order to have those discussions — but it’s been our understanding that no city staff members have communicated this to the CLEO so that they can also vote and really evaluate these fiscal responsibilities,” Sitzes said.

Sitzes said the new location of the Missouri Job Center, which has not been disclosed, “seems to be agreeable,” but the dispute was over the notice and timing of the move.

Ericka Schmeekle, interim director of the Department of Workforce Development, noted that the city was only required to communicate the planned relocation, and “acted within the agreements in place.”

“I do understand, per the agreement, that it’s just a communication of the decision that’s all that’s required,” Sitzes said. “What we’re really looking for is a true partner with us that can be collaborative in those services and in those decisions.”

Holtmann said delaying a city council vote on the bond package “could be problematic” due to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds tied to the Art Museum project, which must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and that carving out the $1.9 million could come “at a significantly greater cost.”

Mayor McClure emphasized the need to move forward with the bond package, and instructed city staff to hold discussions with the Workforce Development Board and CLEO prior to the June 10 Springfield City Council meeting. 

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee