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City of West Plains hires new Finance Director

Thursday (7/1), the West Plains City Council met in special session and approved the hiring of Earlene Rich as the city’s finance director.

Rich is a Certified Public Accountant and comes to West Plains with 12 years of city government experience. She served as Deputy Finance Director for the City of Littleton, Colorado. In addition to serving the City of Littleton, Rich has worked for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Missouri State Auditor’s Office, and the Joplin School District

“I can speak for the leadership team when I say we were highly impressed with Earlene’s experience, education, and approach to serving the community,” said West Plains City Administrator Sam Anselm. “I’d like to thank Mayor Topliff and the City Council for their support in making this decision. We have a team of elected officials and employees who care deeply about this community, and the addition of Earlene to our team will greatly enhance our ability to provide good service to our citizens.”

“I am incredibly blessed to join the City of West Plains team as the finance director,” said Rich. “I cannot wait to work alongside these local government heroes and to serve the citizens of West Plains. I will assist the leadership and citizens in making sense of our financial data to guide current decision-making and long-term priorities.”

Rich received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal in 2004.

Rich, a native of Waynesville, is looking forward to living and working in West Plains.

“I am especially looking forward to plugging in to the local community and enjoying all that West Plains has to offer – including watching the Zizzers win a game or two and a few relaxing mornings floating down the river.,” said Rich.

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U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $2.2 Million to Replace Critical Railroad Infrastructure and Support Job Creation in West Plains, Missouri

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $2.2 million grant to the city of West Plains, Missouri, to make critical railroad infrastructure improvements to support job creation and economic resiliency efforts. This EDA project, to be matched with $3.9 million in other federal, state, and local funds, is expected to create 50 jobs and generate $31.4 million in private investment.

“President Biden is committed to supporting communities in developing safe and resilient infrastructure to serve businesses and create American jobs,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This project will improve transportation safety in the region and will mitigate negative impacts of flooding, improving business resiliency and creating a stronger regional economy.”

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support the city of West Plains as it works to create sustainable infrastructure for the community,” said Craig Buerstatte, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Regional Affairs.“This EDA investment in the city of West Plains will replace an at-grade railroad crossing on Highway 160 with a bridge and overpass, improving access to businesses and creating jobs.”

“This award announcement is great news for the West Plains community, the local economy, and our state,” Governor Mike Parson said. “Public investments in infrastructure like this one spark millions more in private investment and are critical to expanding workforce opportunities and advancing our economy.”

“This announcement is great news for West Plains,” said Senator Roy Blunt. “The new bridge and overpass will help prevent flood-related road closures that have disrupted local businesses at the critically important industrial park. I’m glad this funding will help the community get the resources it needs to complete a project that has been a years-long priority.” 

“Bringing new construction projects to the City of West Plains is a personal mission of mine. The frequent railroad traffic not only halts traffic, it halts the local economy,” said Congressman Jason Smith (MO-08). “This grant will help us build an overpass that will help local Missourians travel faster and spur new economic development. More importantly this overpass will improve safety, allowing for the passage of emergency vehicles that are all too often stopped due to trains on the railway. It also allows the city’s third-largest employer, DRS Land Systems, the ability to move forward with their expansion plan that will create new jobs in the West Plains area.”

This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG). EDA funds SCOCOG to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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City of West Plains Independence Day reminders

Sunday is Independence Day, and many West Plains residents have celebratory plans, ranging from family picnics to a night out. The West Plains Police Departments wants to remind those celebrating with adult beverages not to get behind the wheel, and to designate a sober driver to get home safely.

West Plains Police also want to remind residents of the city’s firework laws:

Sec. 20-44, Discharge of fireworks states, “No individual or organization may discharge fireworks as herein defined, without a permit. Discharging of display fireworks (as defined in the RSMo 320.106.1) will need to be approved by city council, no later than the June council meeting of said year. All state and local applications, permits, and inspections must be completed as well. (RSMo 320.126.1)

Section 28-77,  Rockets, Missiles and Projectiles states, “No person shall construct, use, discharge, fire, launch or explode rockets, missiles or other similar projectiles within the city unless a written permit for such specific purpose has been obtained from City Council.”

The full ordinances pertaining to fireworks is located in the city code book under the Government section of the city website.

“It is important for parents to educate their children on the ordinance and the hazards of improper firework use,” said West Plains Police Chief Stephen Monticelli. “Officers will be given discretion on how to treat violations of the ordinance, which could include written warnings, citations, and/or the confiscation and destruction of the fireworks.”

MONDAY, JULY 5

West Plains City Hall and other city offices will be closed Monday, July 5 in observance of Independence Day. Trash routes for Monday, July 5, will be picked up on Tuesday, July 6. No other routes will be affected that week.

The City’s Solid Waste Transfer Station and Recycle center will be closed on July 5and reopen July 6.

The West Plains Police Department and City of West Plains wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday.

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Rate adjustment: City of West Plains updates refuse rates

For the first time since 2012, the City of West Plains has raised its refuse rates. The West Plains City Council approved the change, from $10.50 per month to $13.00 per month, during the May council meeting. The $2.50 adjustment can be seen on June utility bills.

The city’s refuse rates remain lower than out-of-town refuse services and multiple other municipalities.

“Our refuse department budget was in the negative,” said Public Works Director Jeff Hanshaw. “Following the rate adjustment, it’s in the positive and covers our administrative costs.”

Prior to the adjustment, the refuse department budget was negative $159,913, now it is positive $63,958.

You can learn more about the city’s refuse collection by visiting westplains.gov or by calling City Hall at 417-256-7176.

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City of West Plains hosts MU Rural Immersion Program

The City of West Plains recently welcomed 20 medical students participating in the University of Missouri’s Rural Immersion Program. The Rural Immersion Program is a four-day experience for students in healthcare professions interested in living and working in a rural area. The program is designed to highlight the social and communal aspects of rural life. Through group activities and meetings with community leaders, participants received a preview of life as a rural healthcare professional.

“West Plains was thrilled to host the MU Rural Immersion program,” said West Plains Planning Director Emily Gibson. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to host a program that highlights the impact and opportunities of living in a community such as ours.”

By participating in the Rural Immersion Program, students from medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physician assistantship, and nursing experienced working with other healthcare professions in a collaborative environment. The experience is designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore the non-clinical aspects of life as a rural provider.

The twenty students broke into four groups, each focusing on a different aspect of rural America: business, natural resources, education, and healthcare.

The groups spent four days meeting with professionals, taking tours, learning local history, and enjoying the Ozark’s natural beauty. The program culminated with the groups giving presentations on what they learned.

The groups enjoyed their stay in West Plains. “This has been an invaluable experience and we have learned so much,” said University of Missouri nursing student Maddison Breid.

“We appreciate the support of our community members, businesses and organizations for helping make this a first-class experience for these students,” said Gibson.

Schools participating in the Rural Immersion Program include MU School of Medicine, MU Sinclair School of Nursing, ATSU Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, St. Louis University School of Medicine, UMKC Physician Assistant Program, UMKC School of Pharmacy at MU, and ATSU Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.

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Summer Reading Program underway at West Plains Public Library

After COVID-19 canceled the West Plains Public Library’s in-person portions of the 2020 Summer Reading Program, the library was once again excited to invite kids and adults to participate.

“I truly believe that what I see the most out of kids and parents is relief,” said Director of Library Services Shawnie Kennedy. “Relief not to have to be cooped up any longer, and relief to be able to socialize again. To feel a part of the village once again, instead of isolated. I think the kiddos are excited for the program, even though there is extra reading, because it is outside of the home, it involves other kids and they get a break from being cooped up.”

The program began June 1 with a “Kick Off Carnival” and will continue through July.

Through the first few weeks of the program, hundreds of kids have attended the scheduled storytimes, craft and activities.

“This has also been a great way for the library to get back into the swing of in-person programming,” said Kennedy. “The library is more welcoming than ever, more focused and ready to celebrate the lack of restrictions and limitations.”

Below is a schedule of events and activities for remainder of the program:

Ages 3-12 

  • Tuesdays – Storytime and crafts
  • Thursdays – Presenters and activities
  • Thursday, July 29 – End of Summer Reading Program party and prizes

Ages 13-18 

  • Fridays – Teen Program Days. Teens can earn book bucks for reading milestones and program participation.
  • Friday, July 30 – End of Summer Reading Program party and prizes.


Adults 

  • Every other Wednesday – Adult Summer Reading Program with prizes for events and reading milestones.

“I really want people to learn to love the library and all it has to offer, instead of just using the library because we have books or computers,” said Kennedy. “If we give the young people in our community great experiences and memories of being at the library, that will carry through to adulthood and they are likely to pass it on to the next generations.”

The West Plains Public Library is located at 750 W Broadway Street. Hours of operation are Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can learn more by calling 417-256-4775 or visiting https://www.westplainslibrary.org.

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West Plains City Hall closed July 5, holiday trash routes announced

West Plains City Hall and other city offices will be closed Monday, July 5 in observance of Independence Day. Trash routes for Monday, July 5, will be picked up on Tuesday, July 6. No other routes will be affected that week.

The City’s Solid Waste Transfer Station and Recycle center will be closed on July 5and reopen July 6.

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West Plains City Council passes pair of resolutions

The West Plains City Council met in regular session Monday, June 22. Mayor Michael Topliff and councilmembers passed a pair of resolutions approving an agreement between the City of West Plains and South Central Ozarks Council of Government (SCOCOG).

The agreements are for administrative services as part of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant awards. One is a $2.5 million grant award for the St. Louis Street bridge, the other is a $2.5 million grant award for the U.S. Highway 160 Overpass Bridge.

The City Council also passed a pair of ordinances: An Ordinance amending Chapter 6, Animals and Fowl, Article II, Dogs, Section 6-45 Impoundment and Section 6-46 Disposition of Unclaimed Dogs in the Code of Ordinances and an Ordinance of the City of West Plains, Missouri to amend Chapter 18, Courts, of the Code of Ordinances for the City of West Plains, Missouri, by amending Section 18-40—Assessment for Statewide Court Automation Fund.

You can watch the City Council meeting in its entirety on the City’s YouTube channel.

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West Plains Public Library: Summer Reading Program includes visit from local author

Local author Annie England Noblin will be at the West Plains Public Library Wednesday, June 23, as part of the ongoing Summer Reading Program. Noblin will be at the library from 2 to 3 p.m. and will offer a reading from her new book, Maps For The Getaway. Her book will be available for purchase.

ABOUT MAPS FOR THE GETAWAY

When they posed for a photo at their high school graduation, they vowed they’d be friends forever, but teenage promises are so easily broken, and now, 30 years later, they’re practically strangers.

  • In MAPS FOR THE GETAWAY, there’s Cici—stuck in a rut, married to a cheating husband.
  • Genie—caring for her ailing father but never getting any thanks.
  • Kate—everyone knows people who look perfect on Instagram are not…
  •  And Laurie—the most successful of them all—now tragically gone.

To celebrate Laurie’s life, the three former friends rent a 1962 red Lincoln Continental convertible and  take the road trip of their lives—encountering male strippers, crazy motel rooms,  a boy band that had seen better days, adopting a loveable stray dog…and discovering that it’s never too late to live the wild life—because, sometimes, to find yourself you have to get away.

ABOUT ANNIE ENGLAND NOBLIN

Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three rescued bulldogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English for Arkansas State University. Her poetry has been featured in such publications as the Red Booth Review and the Moon City Review. For more information, please find Annie on Facebook: @AnnieEnglandNoblin and on Twitter: aenoblin.

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MPUA honors retired City Administrator Tom Stehn

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) has issued a Resolution of Appreciation and Recognition to former West Plains City Administrator Tom Stehn. Stehn, who retired from the City of West Plains May 1, returned to City Hall Friday, June 18 to receive the resolution.

“During Tom’s period of leadership, the City of West Plains installed a new automated meter infrastructure; began an integrated management plan to improve stormwater, drinking water and wastewater systems; broke ground on the 10.8 megawatt solar farm; and aggressively addressed the issue of internet connectivity for residential and business customers,” said City of West Plains Public Works Director Jeff Hanshaw.

The resolution reads: “Tom Stehn has faithfully provided leadership and supported the mission and activities of the Missouri Public Utility Alliance since 2011, providing leadership on the Boards of Directors of the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities, and the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission, on behalf of the City of West Plains.”

Stehn served the citizens of West Plains as City Administrator and City Engineer from 2011 to 2021.

The MPUA is a not-for-profit service organization representing municipally owned utilities.

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