Mayor’s optimistic vision for a better city – Daily Journal Online
Located at the northern end of Saint-François County, Bonne Terre has played an important role in the development of the county. For nearly 100 years, mining was the engine that drove trade in the region until the closure of the Bonne Terre mines in 1962 and the closure of the St. Joe Lead offices in 1976.
Since that time, the city has struggled to find a coherent economic plan to meet the community’s needs. However, in the past few years, there have been signs that the city is beginning to awaken from its economic slumber.
The current mayor, Eric Schoenhardt, is optimistic that the future is improving for Bonne Terre. He was appointed mayor on May 22, 2022, completing part of the term of Brandon Hubbard, who moved out of the city. He then runs unopposed in April 2023 to fill the remaining term, which expires in April 2024.
Continuing as mayor beyond April would require him to run for re-election, which he indicates he will do at this time.
Schoenhardt points to several projects currently underway or underway.
“The Division Street water main is a major project,” he said. “We got a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to resurface some roads, one of which is Division Street. We can’t have an old water main that we dig up every two weeks. We’re doing the water main project first, and then we’ll build the roads.
“It seems slow now, but it looks like everything is starting to come together. We’re spending $1.9 million on Division Street and West School Street, and we’re timing it so that when Division Street is repaved, we can repaved downtown and get this work done.”
The repaving of the downtown area was made possible through a TAP grant that comes from the Missouri Department of Transportation. It will include new lights, sidewalks and a repaved section of the downtown area. The downtown project is the first phase.
“We hope the second phase will get another grant to continue on (Route 47) or to the mines or stop in the four directions.”
The lighting and sidewalks will be similar to the improvements Desloge made to Business Highway 8.
A development that has both visual and economic potential is the Bonneville Plaza project. Under the supervision of Hubbard Enterprises and the participation of Hulsey Properties, the project has the distinction of being designated a TIF District.
The Dollar General Market has already been committed to fresh produce, and talks are progressing with both local businesses and chains about locating there as well. Several new businesses have opened in the Homestead/Huddle House area, and the water project is expanding service down Blackberry Lane toward the drag strip.
There are potential companies looking to move to the Bonne Terre Industrial Park, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development serves as a liaison between the state, interested parties and Bonne Terre. The area he believes the DED will be most helpful is Old Orchard, which was recently the scene of the grand opening of Orchard Hills Veterinary Clinic.
This area is predominantly commercially zoned and is an attractive area for development.
“It’s a perfect location for anything from a lumber yard to a Lowe’s,” Schoenhardt said. “It could even be manufacturing. It has been rated as one of the best locations for light industry.
The county recently announced its intention to replace the bridge over the Big River on Berry Road, and this will result in easier access to businesses.
Bonne Terre’s recent ability to apply for and receive grants comes from the city’s improved financial picture due in large part to the reinstatement of the city’s property tax. Since many grants are 50-50 or 80-20, and with tax revenue, the city can now match or fund its share.
For many years, Bonne Terre’s main source of income was sales tax revenue. This has worked well during good economic times but not so much during economic downturns. Of course, repairs to a city’s infrastructure may become necessary, regardless of the economic climate, although this usually seems to happen at the worst possible time.
“We’ve been through some tough times,” Schoenhardt said. “But going back to 2019, I think we passed the property tax. The council that was put together, starting in the teens, made a real effort to gain people’s trust and show that we’re good stewards of their tax dollars.”
“We promised that if we had the property tax, we would start seeking grants. And, you know, we’ve kept that promise. We’ve gotten two grants from CDBG and two grants from the Department of Conservation with Blessing.”
The pond Schoenhardt referred to is Lakeview Park.
The mayor smiled and said, “You should see it! It has a beautiful walking path, concrete, everywhere, it’s amazing!”
Returning to the Division Street project, Schoenhardt said, “A large portion of the population lives just two blocks from Division Street, so it is used a lot. Before the property tax was imposed, all we could do was patch it and then patch it again, because that’s all “We can afford it. But now it’s being done.”
History abounds in this community that leads to its construction. Of all the communities in Saint-François County, none can say they have more historic buildings and connections to the past than Bonne Terre. The library was one of the first public libraries west of the Mississippi River. The Heritage Hall was built in the Tudor style and modeled on William Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-on-Avon in the United Kingdom.
The Space Museum has drawn attention from all over the Midwest. And of course, there are the mines that offer a unique view into the craftsmanship that provided the wealth for the development of the region. Bonne Terre is a unique and interesting community, full of connections to the past and unlimited potential for the future.
Throughout the entire interview, Mayor Schoenhardt expressed great optimism about Bonne Terre. After growing up in Jefferson City, he moved to Bonne Terre in 2000 as a first-year social studies teacher at North County, a position he still holds.
“I didn’t know where Bonne Terre was,” he said. “I came here because I have a job.”
However, 23 years later, his opinion of his new hometown remains simple: “I love it!”
The progress that Bonne Terre appears to be about to experience cannot be attributed to just one individual. At the government level, it requires everyone to come together, put personal concerns aside, and work for the good of the city. That seems to be what’s happening here.
A new generation takes pride in its community while also investing the time and sweat needed to turn the optimistic vision of making their city a better place — both now and in the future — into reality.
Dan Shanks Staff writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.