Ferguson City Council Meeting 8/24/21

398

Due to the editor’s negligence, the city’s video has been uploaded prior to our own. We therefore refer you to that, which is available at this link.

Tuesday’s Council Meeting was yet another marathon, nearly three hours long. Highlights included Capt. Dilworth’s report on the police department’s certification efforts, more information on the new Property Restoration Program, public hearings for special use permits for an eyelash studio and Aaron’s Rent to Own, and a business owner who twice interrupted the meeting in an attempt to figure out how to get a liquor license.

Eric Osterberg was present for his first regular Council Meeting and reported he is learning about his new community and meeting with staff. He hopes to have the Meet and Greet, as well as having office hours where the public can come to speak with him once pandemic conditions allow it to be safe. Osterberg handed over the rest of the City Manager’s report to Fire Chief John Hampton.

Police Chief Frank McCall reported that in the last few weeks there have been four confirmed homicides (all suspects identified, and warrants issued) and one unknown death where the person was located within Ferguson’s boundaries, but St. Louis County has taken over the investigation. Additionally, there was a suspicious fire still under investigation and waiting for lab results. Council Member Linda Lipka noted that there have been comments about the press releases and suggested looking at them. Chief Hampton responded that all press releases now go through Dave Musgrave.

Captain Harry Dilworth reported on progress with the Police Department’s accreditation with CALEA. This is a three-year accreditation process and was started two and a half years ago. We are coming close to finishing our self-assessment. Work has been done to ensure that internal polices meet both CALEA standards and the consent decree requirements, as each are different. Once completed, an accreditation team will come and evaluate the department. At that time, the community will be invited to take part in the accreditation process and there will be a public hearing in which questions may be asked by the public. Dilworth explained that if we don’t receive an immediate approval, there will be time given to correct deficiencies.

Chief Hampton gave a COVID update. Last week, zip code 63135 had 98 new cases and 63136 had 192 new cases. St. Louis County is averaging about 286 cases a day. The rate has been going down slightly, but the concern is that with school starting that there will be an uptick. The city continues to work with the school district to get vaccinations. The city will also be hosting a free COVID testing site [Note: this event was moved to Monday, August 30, and will be held at 800 Chambers from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.]

Bailey Mitchell presented information on the Property Restoration Program for developers and individuals to rehabilitate houses on the post-third list (properties which have not had property taxes paid for three years and did not find buyers in the county’s sales). First, he made it clear that the developers have not had access to the interior of any of the houses and the proposals received by the city are preliminary estimates made without knowing the exact needs of each property. The developers and individuals were present and took questions from the council about their proposals. Two of the houses are intended to become owner occupied, most of the remaining will be market-rate rentals. The proposed developer of the Castro property, which has been a previous subject of concern, stated that from his exterior assessment he expects to do a complete rebuild, keeping only the foundation and infrastructure. The developer of Castro indicated that he would be renting that home only to Section 8 tenants.

Two public hearings were held, the first for a special use permit for 9191 West Florissant Rd. for an eyelash studio, the second for 10740 West Florissant for Aaron’s Rent-to-Own in the space formerly used by Hibachi Grill and vacant since its closure at the end of 2019.

Appointments were made to the Traffic Commission that will finally bring it to a quorum and allow the members to meet. Council Member Lipka requested that Mike Palmer be reappointed to FNIP (Ferguson Neighborhood Improvement Program). Mayor Ella Jones initially stated that there would be no other appointments because a meeting was needed for staff first for Clerk Octavia Pittman to catch up after returning from her absence. Council Member Toni Burrows stated that this has nothing to do with Octavia’s return to work and pointed out how qualified people have been skipped over for selection because the Mayor had extended the vacancy until an applicant of her personal preference has applied. Lipka again restated that this is a reappointment not requiring an application and this was done previously in the same format in the past. The Mayor finally called for a motion which council passed, reinstating Palmer to FNIP.

Annual liquor licenses were renewed for Sam’s Club, Walmart, King of Soul, Circle K, and Elite Market.

Three resolutions were passed, one amending the General Fund budget and one for the Capital Improvement Fund Budget. These were needed to change from a part time assistant prosecutor to full time, while eliminating a part time clerk position; and for providing funding for the Neighborhood Leadership Academy attendance.

The second resolution is for the remaining portion of the flood walls at the Public Works yard. The third resolution awarded a contract to New Concept Construction for improvements on Ford Street from January to Wooster. This also includes the speed humps to prevent speeding. This will be the “model” street for future city work. Council Member Heather Robinett moved to correct the first of ultimately three typos in the evening’s resolutions and bills.

Bills requiring a first reading were: Special Use permit to Marissa Ross for Lotuslash Extensions, 9191 West Florissant; Special Use permit for Aaron’s Rent-to-Own, 10740 West Florissant; and for transferring the vacant lot at 10607 New Halls Ferry from St. Louis County to the city for development with the intent of holding an RFP process for proposals to develop the property.

The bill for an ordinance allowing pole and low monument signs was read for a second time.