Crestwood alderman announces intent to run city-owned restaurant

Sappington House committee to weigh revenue ideas


With Crestwood aldermen discussing whether to continue funding the historic Sappington House, one alderman last week announced his intentions to bid for the rights to run the house’s city-owned restaurant.

Ward 2 Alderman Michael Kelsch told aldermen last week that he plans to submit a request to operate the facility’s restaurant.

“I’d like to inform the Board of Aldermen that I intend to submit a request for proposal to enter into a lease agreement with the Sappington House restaurant to operate the facility,” Kelsch said near the end of the Nov. 25 meeting.

“Because it may result in my having financial interests in a transaction involving the city, I intend to abstain from any vote or pending decision on the future of the facility and to avoid conflict or the appearance of conflict of interest as well.”

In accordance with Crestwood Charter Article 13, Section 13.1 pertaining to “personal financial interest,” Kelsch submitted his intentions in writing to aldermen and city officials.

That section of the City Charter states: “Any elected or appointed officer or employee of the city who has substantial financial interest, direct or indirect, as defined by Missouri statutes, in any transaction with the city, shall make known that interest in writing to the Board of Aldermen. Such officer or employee shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating as a city officer or employee in the making of any such transaction.”

Kelsch told aldermen he had already discussed the matter with Mayor Roy Robinson, City Administrator Jim Eckrich and City Attorney Rob Golterman before the board’s Nov. 25 meeting.

Eckrich informed aldermen at a previous meeting that the Sappington House restaurant had closed as of Nov. 1.

The Sappington House, 1015 S. Sappington Road, was built in 1808 by slave labor and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the museum at the house, the Sappington Complex includes the Sappington Barn restaurant, gift shop and the Library of Americana, which includes resources on American History and Decorative Arts.

The city owns the complex and has a cooperative relationship by city ordinance with the Sappington House Foundation to operate and maintain the facilities.

While the city owns the restaurant, it has been run by a private contractor.

Earlier during last week’s meeting, aldermen voted 6-1 to create a committee to explore revenue ideas at the Sappington House. Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder voted “no” and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel was absent.

Ward 1 Alderman Carol McGee, Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby, Director of Parks and Recreation Amy Meyer and Residential Code Enforcement Officer Rosann Shannon, who also is employed as the Sappington House’s resident manager, were appointed to the Sappington House committee. Two more residents will be appointed in the near future.

Robinson said the committee simply would develop ideas and suggestions on how to generate more revenue at the Sappington House.

“We are in the midst of trying to come up with something that’s maybe a little bit different from what’s been there before,” Robinson said. “We’d like to see that utilized where it would tie in with the trail, something that would be different from what the norm has been … What we’re looking for is something that will provide revenue to help offset the cost of the Sappington House.”

The city has annually budgeted $13,000 to operate and maintain the Sappington House, according to Robinson.

Between this and the Sappington House Foundation’s past help with projects, Robinson rejects any cuts from the historic house.

“I think the last time I heard, it was $13,000 a year we spend on that,” Robinson said. “But we have gotten the foundation to help with the sidewalks, which they didn’t have to. They’ve done other things. They’ve done the roofing. That’s outside. They didn’t have to do that. What I’m saying is they have done some things.

“But it belongs to the city. We only have a small historical aspect in this city. And that’s a very important one. It’s a 200-year project that’s been there … And to talk about … I’m amazed … $13,000 will not save the city if we’re going under, let me tell you. It will not…

“We’ve got to keep a little of our history to provide to our people who follow us. It’s an important part of every community. And to see people keep badgering the Sappington House, that foundation of ladies have done great things for this city. It’s really a wonderful thing. If you haven’t ever been there, you ought to go and take a tour and see what’s offered there. It is a nice facility. And to have that in our city and to have all the historical background that goes with that is amazing to me … It would be like burning Mount Vernon in Washington, D.C.”

That said, resident Martha Duchild asked the board last week if the Sappington House organization would consider using some funds reserved for the Sappington House Library of Americana into operating the facility as a whole to curb the city’s expenses.

“I was wondering, since the Sappington House seems to have some difficulty keeping their revenues up to expenses, if anybody from the city has contacted the members of the Sappington House trust to see if there is an opportunity to meet with the trustees of the trust and negotiate with them maybe in part to releasing some of that half-million dollars they have for the library endowment to manage the house?” Duchild said.

“We have talked to them on numerous occasions about that,” Robinson said. “And they are unwilling to utilize that fund in that way.”

“And what if this board decided at some point it would be necessary to sell off the house?” Duchild said. “Would that influence their decision or change their mind, do you think?”

“The board cannot sell it,” Robinson said. “It would have to go to the county.”

“The county owns?” Duchild said.

“No, the city owns it, but we can’t sell it,” Robinson said.

“And not the land that it’s on?” Duchild said.

“I don’t think so,” Robinson said. “Don’t ask me. I just know that we can’t sell it. If we were to give it up, we’d have to try to get the county connected … It’s like some of our parks. If we tried to sell one of our parks … we can’t sell it. We’d have to give it back to the people who donated it.”

“But do we still count that as an asset?” Duchild said.

“Yes,” Robinson said.

“But we can’t sell it,” Duchild said

“Correct,” Robinson said.

Although she realizes that cutting the annual Sappington House expense would result in only slight improvement to Crestwood’s finances, Duchild said small cuts would “send a message.”

“I think what the community needs to see from this board is that it is willing to make some inroads into cutting expenses,” Duchild said. “And that’s the message you would send. Everybody understands it’s not going to solve the entire problem.

“It’s a combination of increasing revenues, but it’s also the board needs to work to cut where it can.”