The Ferguson City Council met Tuesday evening for a little over three hours for its regular session. A special session focused on discussion on the contract proposal with OpenGov preceded the regular session and ran over so that the regular session started late. Highlights of the meeting were: several runaway public comments that are addressed here in the story, and not included in this summary; a presentation on traffic calming options on Chambers/Hereford from Forestwood to S. Florissant including questions taken from St. Louis County; and the NPSC also presented their proposed changes for the City Ethics policy. In an added plus, City Manager Eric Osterberg wore a cowboy hat, assumed to be the first City Manager to do so during a Council Meeting.
Gerry Noll spoke about the Citizen’s Review Board and its work and again urged residents to consider applying for upcoming vacant seats.
For the other comments, see this story.
City Manager’s Report
COVID Report Chief John Hampton reminds everyone that COVID is not gone, and that vaccinations, social distancing, and hand washing remain important, and if you do not feel well, stay home from work or school. He noted that the CDC is tracking variants. Hampton also spoke of complications of those who have had COVID, including indications that some people develop diabetes and that some have mental health problems.
Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee (NPSC) Recommendations for Conflict of Interest Policy.
Mildred Clines presented, saying that NPSC was working on this because they believe that to build trust between residents, community officials, and the city there must be transparency, especially in financial reporting. The proposed changes get very specific, such as requiring even candidates of elective office to officially record whether they have substantial or private interest in anything proposed or pending at council. Additionally, candidates for office, along with council members, the city manager, and director of finance must also report any interest in pending or proposed matters not simply of their immediate household, but of their extended family, including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins.
The council did not offer questions or comments to the presentation.
St. Louis County Street Update
Eric Osterberg first went through a presentation similar to the one previously shared at the Traffic Commission earlier [see slide set at this link]. First, increased enforcement is needed, with increased fines and/or community service in lieu of fines. Potential options for calming include Speed Feedback Signs, Spot Lane Reduction using either concrete barriers or flexible channelizers, Extended Lane Reduction, a Road Diet with two way turn lane, a roundabout at Chambers/Elizabeth/Hereford, and any possible combination of the above.
The preferred proposal has a reduction to one lane each direction using the channelizers, with a two way turn lane. This would be in addition to restriping and resurfacing the street, and adding the roundabout, which would include a raised center of some design. The County’s initial ask is a 50% share of costs. County recommends starting with the extended lane reduction and channelizers. Information gathered from a pilot can be used to inform the final road diet/roundabout combination. And if we try the channelizers and do not see improvement, we may need to consider other options. County is essentially proposing that for the next year or two we do channelizer so that data can be collected and plans adjusted if merited.
Additionally, County proposes a series of public meetings jointly held by city and county, and including the school district, fire and police departments so that citizens can be informed and raise their concerns. There will need to be action by the City Council by ordinance to enter this partnership and allocate funding. Osterberg recommends a multi-year disbursement for the city’s contribution.
Linda Lipka asked about the cost of replacing damaged channelizers and who would be responsible for physically placing them, and whether negotiation was possible in determining the cost share, especially given that this is County’s street and things such as resurfacing are part of its maintenance by County. Osterberg responded first, stating that discussions had been that the city would initiate the work by acquiring $20,000 of channelizers and that County would reimburse for half and that moving forward, costs would also be split. As to the total project, Osterberg understood that County already has federal funds lined up for these intersections. Joe Kulessa, Acting Deputy Director of Transportation and Public Works at St. Louis County stated that County is looking for the city to physically install and maintain the channelizers. Kulessa explained County is severely understaffed and underfunded. He understands there is work needed in Ferguson, but there is more work elsewhere. They are looking for solutions and partnerships. He also said the resurfacing is not currently needed for maintenance, but for restriping work. Kulessa noted that their engineer has not yet had an opportunity to design yet, but they expect significant savings involved by approaching this as part of federal project work. However, ARPA funds can’t be used on transportation. Kulessa also stated they were looking at replacement of the existing signal at Chambers/Hereford/Elizabeth.
Council continued with an extended discussion.
Chief Frank McCall presented a report on the use of the ShotSpotter over its trial period. Reviewing data from December 2020-January 2022 shows the strongest concentrations of shots in apartment areas and at the border with Kinloch. Osterberg informed Council that there is a good chance grant funding can continue funding ShotSpotter. Heather Robinett asked whether use of ShotSpotter has helped with arrests. McCall stated it has helped in incidents in which no one calls in shots fired. A double homicide had officers sent to scene because of ShotSpotter alone and it has also saved lives by getting officers to the scene of shootings. Chief Hampton also spoke, saying that they get earlier notification and have responded more quickly to injured persons.
David Keller and Pam Hartley were appointed to the Ferguson Neighborhood Improvement Program.
Chris Crabel, the Assistant to the City Manager, and Elliot Liebson, Development Director, were appointed to North County Festival Square CID. These appointments were made due to the need for Osterberg to establish residency in Missouri after residing here for one year, and due to the vacancy of the Finance Director.
The City Clerk received an application for a liquor license for Midwest Wine Bar at 252 S. Florissant. They are applying for a license by the drink, Monday through Sunday. One of the four owners was present and explained they have had delays since signing their lease. They plan to focus on Missouri wine but will also have spirits and beer. They want atmosphere where people come in after work, listen to jazz, and network. Liquor license was approved.
No. 2022-12 to Revoke the Business License of Cousin Mini Market (aka Jenny Market). The owner pleaded guilty to maintaining a public nuisance. They had been found by the State to be illegally selling cigarettes, this was also a violation of the license as they were not paying required taxes and fees. Council Member Lipka asked for clarification whether this would be requiring the business to close entirely or just a certain part of it to close. Osterberg confirmed that revocation will close their doors. Vote was called by roll. Council Member Fran Griffin did not respond when called on in roll call or following the vote of the other members. Resolution to Revoke was passed with 6 ayes, Griffin was marked as absent.
No. 2022-13 to allow the City Manager to negotiate a contract with OpenGov to provide code enforcement and permitting services for Ferguson. This contract was the subject of the special meeting held prior to the regular meeting (which was not covered by the Observer). OpenGov describes itself, according to its website, as a “web-based ERP (enterprise resource planning) system purpose-built for our nation’s cities, counties, and state agencies.” Vote was called by roll. Council Member Fran Griffin did not respond when called on in roll call or following the vote of the other members. Resolution to negotiate a contract was passed with 6 ayes, Griffin was marked as absent.
Bills Requiring a Second Reading
No. 7222 An Ordinance Amending the Code of Ordinances as it relates to Mobile Food Vendors was read. In roll call vote Council Member Fran Griffin was again unresponsive when her name was called. Council Member Naquittia Noah stated that she had texted her but had no response. Bill passed with 6 ayes.
No. 7223 An Ordinance authorizing a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Agreement (MABAS) was read. This allows the city to enter in an intergovernmental mutual aid agreement for mutual aid in fire protection, firefighting, and protection of life and property in an emergency or disaster with MABAS-Illinois. In roll call vote Council Member Fran Griffin was again unresponsive when her name was called. Bill passed with 6 ayes.
No. 7224 An Ordinance authorizing real properties to be transferred to the city for development or beatification was read. This allows for transfer of deeds from St. Louis County to the city for the following 15 properties: 811 Arline, 815 Arline, 6176 Behle, 5990 Dupree, 6151 Dupree, 6161 Dupree, 6159 Emerald, 316 S. Harvey, 436 S. Harvey, 301 Henquin, 434 Mueller, 434 Plaza, 7550 Rowles, 830 Walters Dr. Planning and Development Coordinator Bailey Mitchell explained that these are post-third properties [properties owned by St. Louis County after at least three years of unpaid taxes] that are being considered for demolition. They will not be moving forward with demolition of all these properties but approving a list with additional properties will allow the city to move forward in a timely manner to get as many as can be demolished in this fiscal year done. In roll call vote Council Member Fran Griffin was again unresponsive when her name was called. Bill passed with 6 ayes.
No. 7225 An Ordinance authorizing a Redevelopment Agreement with LMAC Holdings, LLC, for affordable senior housing units at 10607 New Halls Ferry Road was read. In roll call vote Council Member Fran Griffin was again unresponsive when her name was called. Bill passed with 5 ayes and 1 Nay from Burrow.
Eric Osterberg said that he appreciated the Council’s support in their voting tonight, especially for approving OpenGov. He believes that will increase efficiency and responsiveness to the community.
Naquittia Noah Congratulated City Clerk Pittman for becoming President of the state clerks’ association. Noah said that she has been working on door-to-door outreach to seek out residents who might be interested in being on boards and commissions. She also noted that she had explained and understood we could not have speed bumps because it prevented emergency vehicles from arriving timely. City Manager Osterberg asked Chief Hampton to respond, and Hampton explained that the problem was that it would wreck the suspension of the fire trucks to drive over speed bumps, but that speed humps could be used without damaging the trucks.
Fran Griffin remained unresponsive when called. Mayor Ella Jones expressed concern and Osterberg stated that the Chief was supposed to have sent someone over to check on her.
Toni Burrow said she had met the new HR Director and also gave a farewell and thanked Bailey Mitchell for a job well done. She also voiced concern that public comments were being used as a platform for personal vendettas and that was wrong. She referred to a recent meeting she had with Mayor Jones as a way to build bridges and how that was done with camaraderie. But she wants a stop to use of council meetings for political gain.
Heather Robinett Wished everyone a happy Spring and hoped people would take time to consider trying something new, such as filling a spot on a board or commission, opportunities around the community, or just taking a new class. She also reminded everyone that April 5th is election day and hopes that everyone will get out and vote. She thanked the Library and League of Women Voters for holding the Council candidates’ forum and noted that Wednesday evening would be the forum for the School Board elections.
Linda Lipka First thanked Naquittia Noah for working on filling board and commission vacancies. She also stressed the importance of getting out to vote on April 5th. She thanked Bailey Mitchell for his work here. Lipka spoke of her appreciate of having been able to have had a few times to speak with the late Cora Faith Walker, and that she was honored to know her and wanted to thank her for what she did for the community.
Phedra Nelson Encouraged people to vote on April 5th.
City Clerk Octavia Pittman wanted to correct Noah and stated that her term as president started last March and ends on April 30th. She took the opportunity to thank the council for supporting her and allowing time for her to be a dedicated member of the group.
City Manager Eric Osterberg also thanked Bailey Mitchell for his work.
Planning and Development Coordinator Bailey Mitchell thanked everyone for the opportunity of working with the city. His last day will be April 1st and he will be the new Planning and Development Director for Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
Mayor Ella Jones noted that the next meeting will be April 19th. Plans are expected to have a meeting either at the Council Chambers or at the Community Center. Jones also said that the family of Cora Faith Walker is appreciative of the acts of kindness that have been shown to them. She recalled first meeting Walker when she moved to Ferguson and that she was a great advocate for our community. Jones also encouraged voters to turnout on April 5th.
Council Member Lipka added that she wanted to thank Jones for the beautiful letter she wrote on behalf of Ferguson to Walker’s family. Jones stated that the letter was intended to be on behalf of the Council, city staff, and residents.
Chief Hampton announced that there was an update on Fran Griffin, and she was expected to return to the meeting. Discussion continued about Walker’s legacy, and Toni Burrow stated that people were still signing cards at the Library for her family.
Fran Griffin joined, and Mayor Jones asked if she was okay. Griffin said she was okay.
The meeting was adjourned.