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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Annual Address is Stephens’ Last, Says ‘State of the City is Strong’

KSMU archives
Mayor Bob Stephens during Thursday's State of the City Address/Credit: Christopher Akins - City of Springfield

Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens used his final State of the City address to discuss the ongoing dispute concerning the county jail.

Stephens spoke Thursday morning before some 300 people at Arch of the Ozarks, part of the chamber’s Good Morning Springfield! monthly gathering. He said beginning this week municipal prisoners can be housed in either Miller or Taney counties.

“We have tried for a year to get this problem resolved, and the issue of transportation of prisoners was always the sticking point. However, just in the last two-to-three months this transportation issue was resolved and our police officers and municipal court judges now have options that have not been available for over a year.”

The city has allocated up to $500,000 for the transport and housing of these prisoners. Officials call it a temporary solution to a long-standing disagreement with the Greene County sheriff over the housing of municipal prisoners. Last week, the county asked the city to contribute funds to construct and lease a new, temporary building to house inmates. The proposal is still pending.

During his speech, Stephens referred to it as his final State of the City address. Afterward, he confirmed to the News-Leader that he will not be seeking another term as mayor next April. Stephens was first elected to council seven years ago. Since taking over as mayor five years ago, Stephens says Springfield is in a much stronger position than it was.

“The state of the city is strong, our reserves are intact, our plans are in place and we tackle our issues head on with positive results,” Stephens said. “Our economic development forecasts are all headed in a great direction, we are growing jobs and the state of the city is strong and getting stronger.”

He began his speech by acknowledging the importance of economic growth and development in the city.

“In last year’s address I mentioned several buildings in our downtown area that were being repurposed and redeveloped,” Stephens said. “After 22 years, the Heer’s Building has its lights on again, as does the Vandivort, the Sky Eleven building, the U and the Hotel Sterling.”

Stephens said that there is also over $150 million in the pipeline for upcoming public and private projects in the downtown area. He added that Springfield has been named top five in the nation for economic strength, the third best city to start a business, and the first for business start-up resources.

On the topic of transportation, Stephens said he supports all methods of movement throughout the city. He announced that Springfield has just completed its fourth diverging diamond and, since 2009, more than tripled the number of bicycle lanes.

He added, “For the twelfth year in a row, our airport has been evaluated with no noted discrepancies. This is one of the best records of any airport in the central United States.”

One major focus area for the city over the past year has been Zone 1, the city’s poorest region. The mayor applauded a recent community event that assisted about 8,800 citizens from those neighborhoods.

Stephens also addressed city construction, public safety, environmental issues, and the budget. View a transcript of the mayor’s speech here.