Three meetings were held by the City Council this week. The first, a special meeting held on Monday, the Observer will need to revisit later. This meeting consisted of city staff presentations to the council on the 5-year CIP (Capital Improvement Plan.)
The second special meeting, held Tuesday before the regular Council Meeting, consisted of three presentations and discussions.
The first was on the for a new Forgivable Business Loan program. (See program information here.) This is intended to continue revitalization of the central business district and will give an incentive to renovate properties or update/improve equipment. Loans will be 50% of the proposed cost, of up to $20,000 and payable over 5 years. Only one loan will be awarded to a single applicant within a five-year period (or until the loan is repaid and project is complete.) For improvements to a structure, the business must be within the central downtown business district. If for equipment, the applicant must show demonstrated need for the equipment and its expected impact on the business’ success. The forgivable conditions provide a 20% reduction in repayment each year for five years if all stated conditions are met.
Next in discussion was the Adjacent-Side Lot Program, a companion to the Property Restoration Program. The allows qualified homeowners to obtain vacant lots owned by the city to expand their yards or allow for improvements. These are primarily properties the city has obtained through demolition of abandoned houses. Two lists are available on the city website, one of available properties, and one of potentially available post-third properties which the city may be able to obtain and transfer. See the website for more information and for the property lists.
Last in the Special Meeting was a presentation on Senior Housing Development (which I missed and cannot summarize).
The open session of the regular meeting clocked in in just under an hour, an achievement we are not even certain when last occurred. One public comment was submitted, but the speaker was not present, and the comment was not given before closing that section. City manager Eric Osterberg started with his report by sharing a snazzy logo for the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) rollout for citizen input now titled “Moving Ferguson Forward.” This will be rolled out on the website and in announcements soon.
Chief John Hampton provided the COVID update, stating that numbers are going down, but the current rates are still very concerning. He stressed the need for vaccination, including those eligible for a booster shot to get one. The homebound program is still in effect for anyone needing to use it. The wearing of masks and social distancing is still needed, but the city will potentially be having in-person events.
Chief Frank McCall reported that he reviewed statistics from the July to September quarter of 2021 and 2020 for comparison purposes. He noted that calls for service were down this year by 14% and said that traffic enforcement was up 63% compared to the same time last year. Specific numbers were not cited in his report. He also stated that the consent decree requires more community policing, and he wants to be able to have more bicycle and foot patrols. He also said the current force is at 33 officers, with one expected to start on 10/25/21 and two more in the application process for possible hiring. He is trying to get six seats in the next Police Academy which starts at the first of the 2022 year.
A public hearing for a special use permit for Ameren to build a new substation at the site of its current substation at 201 Adams was held. This site has been used by Ameren since 1960. Under the building code they are required to seek the special permit because this is a new building project. Ameren representatives explained that this is a rebuild and needed because the 60-year-old equipment on site is at the end of its useful life. The new equipment and substation are expected to reduce outage times when they occur and provide an automatic transfer system to give more flexibility to the system. Council asked what kind of façade or aesthetics the proposed substation would have. It is planned to be fenced to hide the equipment. Elliot Liebson, Director of Planning, confirmed that the current zoning has no design requirements for them to meet. Such requirements are expected to be considered when the city updates the zoning code in the future.
Resolutions were passed providing for:
- A municipal election to be held Tuesday, April 5, 2022, for the election of three council members, one from each ward.
- The transfer of property from the city to Sara Holmes of 217 S. Hartnett under the Side Lot Program.
- A contract for the restoration of properties at 511 Ruggles Road, 900 Forestwood Drive, 302 St. Louis Avenue, and 604 Tiffin Avenue, between the city and Palmer Residential Services, LLC under the Property Restoration Program.
- A contract for the restoration of property at 711 Reasor Place between the city and Milton Shetler under the Property Restoration Program.
- Budget reallocations to the Park Fund to allow the hiring of a Sports and Recreation Specialist and allow sport leagues to be re-started. The position had been trimmed from the budget previously as the programs were suspended due to COVID.
The first reading of the bill for a special use permit for Ameren was read.
In Miscellaneous it was noted:
- The deadline for Human Rights Advocate is due by 10/18/21 to the Human Rights Commission.
- Earthdance and Ferguson Florissant School District are working together on a program bringing agriculture and culinary teaching into the schools.
- FSBD (Ferguson Special Business District) is holding their next meeting on 10/18/21 at 5:30 at Exotic Trends.
- The cancellation of council meetings near the holidays will leave only one council meeting scheduled for both November and December. The council will be meeting on 11/9/21 and 12/14/21.
- Changes in state law are changing opening and filing dates for city elections. This will need public discussion at a later time. Packets for candidates will be available on 11/1/21 from City Clerk Octavia Pittman. Filing opens 12/7/21 and closes 12/28/21.