City Council Meeting, May 25, 2021

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Council Recap:

On opening the meeting Mayor Ella Jones instructed that members address each other as council woman and last name and to identify themselves in the same manner when making a motion. (Mayor Jones went on in the meeting to call members by first names herself.) And Jones declared that the goal was to be finished by 8:30. (The meeting went well past 9:00). Council Member Burrow noted that she wanted to move to amend the agenda to include a closed session regarding personnel. The motion was seconded and moved to a vote. Noah, Griffin, Jones, and Nelson voted no, and the motion failed.

Public Comments:

Nick Kasoff spoke against passing the resolution to award a contract of $130,000 to a consultant to update the zoning subdivision and sign code. He argued that the expense was far too great and better spent on other needs. As it is, there is consideration by the city to go ask residents to increase taxes and it is not appropriate to spend so much money on something that is not urgently needed.

Annette Jenkins stated she understood the city manager search had closed and said this is not transparency and that we need to hire an official city manager. She also further went on to complain that certain members had tried to hire one of the candidates who presented in the candidate forum.

Gerry Noll spoke on details that supports the use of traffic calming and the proposal by citizens to revive the city’s earlier plans for S. Florissant. You can read more about his statement and the traffic calming. You can read more in-depth on Noll’s comments here.

Mildred Clines also spoke on the city manager’s position and the council’s failure to comment on where it stands.

Becky Mueller, a member of the Executive Board of PROUD, thanked several people and groups for their work and support: The Civilian Review Board, including Gerry Nolls and Gene Franks, for their presentation this month; Chief of Police Jason Armstrong and Nicole Barton, Decree Coordinator, for their previous presentations; Chief Hampton; and all Council Members. She invited everyone to the annual meeting for PROUD to be held on June 26, at 2:00 pm, with more information to be found on their website.

Erica Brooks declaimed people “collaborating to overthrow the quote black and female mayor, with all the ideas of previous administrations that didn’t want to abide by the consent decree” and gave a series of pithy sayings before concluding that we should come together.

Alan Mueller gave a statement in support of updating the zoning ordinance saying it became clear with the Ferguson 2040 master plan and West Florissant Corridor plan made the need to update clear. He stated our existing ordinance is based on fragmentation and that he believes it limits economic and civic progress. A new zoning code adopting form-based zoning and allowing for transitions between businesses and neighborhood areas. He also argued for the need for public involvement in a new zoning code.  

City Manager’s Report:

New Public Works Director Don Boyce said that work had been done on streets with major sinkholes of three to four feet deep. This included work on Clark, Emmett, and Spring. They are now moving on to do work on any other streets with major sinkholes of more than a foot deep.

Dave Musgrave reported on the announcement that the pool’s reopening was delayed due to the need for a pump assembly that is not yet delivered. You can read the full announcement here. Musgrave also said staff are preparing a banner for the car wash site on West Florissant to show and explain the trailhead park that is coming to the site.

Musgrave was asked by Council Member Linda Lipka to clarify the status of the park’s budget given the unexpected pool repairs. He explained that maintenance had been budgeted for this fiscal, though at a lower level as the pool had not been opened last summer. Originally, plans for replacing a controller were made for this season. With the failure of the pump that planned maintenance cost has been placed on hold. There is no request for additional money because of the pump repair, just that planned work to replace older parts will be adjusted.

Chief Hampton gave an update that we currently are under 30 locations within Ferguson having a positive COVID case. Chief noted that while county is opening, we still need to maintain social distancing. They have been working on determining occupancy load for city spaces. For example, the City Council Chambers would be limited to 45 persons, including council. Hampton and Musgrave have put together some possible plans for boards and commissions to meet in person. As of June 1st, there will no longer be someone to meet visitors coming to City Hall. Visitors will be required to wear masks on entering a city building, while in hallways, and any time social distancing cannot be practiced. Temperatures will only be taken at daycare camps. They will be looking at rental inquiries later on June 7th for events and rooms with some restrictions. Although there will be camps, the gym remains closed and there is no childcare. Plastic partitions have been added to the council chambers. Chief Hampton recommends that the June council meeting include only council in-person and have the meeting on zoom. The July meeting could allow some public attendance, but it will be limited. For boards and commissions there are two meeting rooms that are zoom ready, members of the boards and commissions can be in-person and use zoom to allow for public attendance.

Lastly, Chief Hampton addressed the grass cutting. He noted that the process of the bidding was correctly done and selected, but that due to inexperience and a lack of communication the contract did not come to the new acting city manager to be introduced to council. Mistakenly, the bidder was contacted before it was brought to council for approval. City Attorney Apollo Carey recommended that this still be brought to council for approval before the contract is awarded, as the City Manager has no authority to sign the contract. You can also see more about this contract here.

Special Presentation, Nicole Barton, Consent Decree Coordinator:

We are nearing completion of a five-year plan. We have had significant progress in community engagement, she has worked with both NPSC and CRB and has drafted a Community Policing and Engagement Plan. A series of small group dialogues between residents and police has started, and residents can still sign up for sessions yet to be started. Our goal is to use these to enhance the community engagement efforts.

Barton has been working with DOJ to update forms for reporting use of force, vehicle pursuit, and use of force review. These will be used to track data. The next module to be done is Accountability.

For policy implementation, the Use of Force policy is available online for public comment through June 11th.

Bias-Free Policing training was provided earlier this year by command staff, FPD trainers, as well as some select community members. All FPD members will be required to take this training in 2021.

The monitor team has started the first FPD audit and are providing documentation needed to complete the work.

Special Presentation-Tony Lonero and Bob McGartland for Ferguson Neighborhood News:

The Ferguson Neighborhood News reported that they are near the break-even point they have sought. They clarified that what they are seeking is payment for advertising space for the City of Ferguson. The money goes towards two pages of the paper dedicated to the city for the use of sharing information with residents and visitors. They are offering a lower price for the city to do 2 pages each month for $26,400. The consensus of the council was to include this in the budget discussion in Thursday’s meeting.

Proclamation honoring Eagle Scout CraigAnthony T. Moore.

Resolution Authorizing Contract for Revision of Sign, Subdivision and Zoning Codes

Planning Director Elliott Liebson explained the need to unify and bring up to date these codes, and that this was not something city staff alone could do. Our current codes are not in line with the Comprehensive Plan. However, as pointed out by Heather Robinett, even though she supports the work being done, it was advertised for $26,000 and we now have a bid for $130,000 for consideration without the council having seen presentation or information about this. She spoke in favor of holding off for discussing and to see if there is another company who can do this for less. Linda Lipka spoke of finding a middle ground, recognizing that it likely needs more funding than anticipated, but that we need to find a way to do it for a lower cost than this bidder, something more around $60,000. Burrows said she understood the limitations of what the staff could handle. But without more information, she could not support the cost of this, and this should be tabled until next year. Apollo Carey, City Attorney, provided the legal perspective to support that the work of consolidating these codes was needed, as inconsistencies between the codes and plans were problems. The current status quo will continue to create administrative issues that have to be resolved regularly.

Liebson explained that the low bidder did not include services for presenting the code to council and planning commission, costs which would bring their bid up. The second bidder did not include a user’s guide, which the city did not see as optional, which again brings their bid up.

A motion was made by Council Member Burrow to regroup, postponing it indefinitely until the proposal is ready to present to council. Chief Hampton said they will work on a timeline and set up dates, possibly for September or October. Motion passed.

Miscellaneous:

Naquittia Noah:  Expressed that she was upset that her name had been mispronounced in a previous session.

Fran Griffin: Reiterated the need for residents to report any deep sinkholes in city streets to Public Works. She also thanked Chief Hampton for explaining what happened with the grass cutting contract. Griffin also said that NPSC had worked on the Use of Force policy previously and she had thought it was completed. She said she wanted clarification on what was changed and how it was posted for commented without going back to those who had worked on it previously. Griffin further stated she wants to hear the voices of those in the minority opinion, not to simply listen to majority opinion. Lastly, Griffin stated her frustration that there has been no follow up to the public about the city manager position.

Toni Burrow: Congratulated the Eagle Scout and expressed her enjoyment of the Twilight Run. She also felt Council had a great budget session this year, and thanked Lexi Miller and the Chief for their work. She also appreciated the public comments and the work of many citizens on boards, commissions, and neighborhood associations.

Heather Robinett: Thanked the council for their work on the budget and thought they worked well together. She also said she was happy the Twilight Run was in person this year and found it a great community feeling to participate. She also appreciated the number of residents who have reached out about the traffic diet, the mowing contract, and other things. She apologized that she did not respond to everyone individually though she did make sure that comments were shared. Robinett also congratulated CraigAnthony Moore on his Eagle Scout and thanked everyone for “tuning in” to the council meetings.

Linda Lipka: Thanked staff for the work filling the potholes and her appreciation for seeing action in response to public complaints. She also complimented Don Boyce for making progress so quickly in his new position as head of Public Works. Lipka expressed her interest in staff resurrecting the road diet plan and asked that the public comment by Gerry Noll which included links to information be forwarded to Boyce. Lipka also urged residents to sign up for the dialogues that Nicole Barton discussed. She also congratulated CraigAnthony Moore. Lastly, she thanked Council, staff, and community for their support during her mother’s health crises which caused her to miss budget meetings unexpectedly.

Phedra Nelson: Thanked Mr. Boyce for the street counters and said she greatly enjoyed the turnout for the Twilight Run and said next year’s Run is scheduled for May 14, 2022. Lastly, she thanked those for sharing condolences on the loss of her stepmother.

Ella Jones: Also congratulated CraigAnthony Moore, and cited Trayvon Walker for sharing his comments. She thanked everyone for their work on the budget.