Construction of new Mehlville firehouse slated to be completed Feb. 10

Board members nix request for meeting of pension panel

By MIKE ANTHONY

Construction of a new Mehlville Fire Protection District firehouse in Oakville is scheduled to be completed Feb. 10.

The Feb. 10 completion date for the new No. 2 firehouse at 5434 Telegraph Road was outlined in a construction schedule provided to the district’s Board of Directors by the project’s contractor.

Ground was broken for the new firehouse during a June 13 ceremony.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously May 22 to award a contract totaling $1,274,030 to United Construction to build the firehouse at the corner of Telegraph Road and Whitshire Drive.

The fire district received 14 base bids for constructing the new firehouse with the lowest ones submitted by Schneider Construction of O’Fallon at $1,186,715.70 and United Construction of St. Louis at $1,190,000.

But Greg Garner of Archimages, hired by the district as an architectural and engineering consultant, recommended United Construction based on its experience and because Schneider Construction did not properly fill out the application.

The Board of Directors last week discussed an updated construction budget, which includes a 7.5-percent contingency of $95,552.25, $15,000 for landscaping and $15,000 for an irrigation system, that totals $1,399,582.25.

Before bids were sought, board members agreed that the maximum cost of the new firehouse will be roughly $1.792 million — excluding the cost of the land. The cost of the one-story energy-efficient building with 6,554 square feet of space originally was estimated at $1.42 million.

Additional costs, including architectural and engineering fees, utility relocations, landscaping and furniture, fixtures and equipment, could total roughly $322,500.

The existing No. 2 firehouse, built in the 1950s in the 5600 block of Telegraph Road, is deteriorating and needs to be re-placed, according to district officials.

The board last year purchased the property for the new firehouse from Darrel D. “Dean” Climer of Oakville for $600,000.

The existing No. 2 firehouse will remain open during construction. Once the new firehouse is completed, the board plans to sell the old fire station and land.

In a separate matter Sept. 11, the board rejected a request from two employees who serve on the district’s Pension Committee to schedule a meeting of that committee.

The Pension Committee is comprised of the three members of the Board of Directors and two employees — Dan Rosenthal and Dave Andrews — who are members of Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Union employees in December filed a notice of appeal seeking to overturn an August 2007 ruling upholding the board’s authority to make changes to the district’s pension plan. The union’s request for a permanent injunction prohibiting the board from changing the pension plan to a defined-contribution plan from a defined-benefit plan was denied Aug. 27, 2007, by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Thea A. Sherry.

On Dec. 24, Sherry denied union employees’ motion for a new trial, but granted their motion for an injunction pending appeal that prohibits the board from making any changes to the district’s pension plan. But Sherry’s injunction excludes employees hired after March 31, 2006.

In an Aug. 8 letter to the Board of Directors, Rosenthal and Andrews requested a date be established for a quarterly meeting of the Pension Committee to discuss:

• An actuarial study of the pension plan and assets.

• Reinvestment of current pension assets to conform with investment policy.

• Review itemized expenditures for legal and advisory.

After board Secretary Ed Ryan asked about the letter from Rosenthal and Andrews, board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman said, “… My interpretation of our injunction is that we’re not to do anything with that and so I really don’t see a point to a meeting because there won’t be anything to do. Our money is in a secure place. It’s getting interest and until the case is settled in the court, I don’t think we can do anything much other than that …”

Ryan said, “I just want to say we send them a response whether it’s from the board or from our attorney …”

Board members agreed to have the district’s legal counsel, Mathew Hoffman, send a letter to the two informing them no meeting would be scheduled.

Local 1889 President Bob Strinni told the Call he believes a Pension Committee meeting should be scheduled because “there are reasons to meet.”

Strinni, a firefighter, was fired by the Board of Directors in June for allegedly violating the district’s anti-harassment policy and plans to file a lawsuit to be reinstated.

“Well, I think they’re hiding behind the judge’s decision because the judge clearly said — part of — they liquidated the funds, which cost money to do, which basically cost the taxpayers money and cost money out of the pension plan by liquidating them …,” he said. “Our argument was that this was going to take time — take the money and put it back and let (district actuary) Milliman disburse the funds properly like they have for years to where it makes money according to the economy. So they kept hanging their hat on that they couldn’t do that and then the judge basically changed the last word in her injunction that allowed them to do that.

“So for them to say they can’t do that is wrong. They can do that and so there are reasons to meet …,” Strinni added.