Governments meet via video as virus spreads


Photo by Erin Achenbach

The Mehlville Board of Education and administrators meet virtually through the videoconferencing app Zoom Thursday night.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

As governmental bodies across the country grapple with how to conduct public meetings in the age of “social distancing” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three local governments met virtually last week — the St. Louis County Council, the Mehlville Board of Education and the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

Crestwood held its first-ever meeting over Facebook Live March 24.

Residents could not physically attend the meeting, to keep in line with St. Louis County’s stay-at-home order and ban on groups of more than 10 people, but residents were able to tune in using Facebook Live on the city’s Facebook page as the meeting was livestreamed.

Aldermen sat apart on the dias, with some even seated where the public normally sits to maintain 6 feet of distance between each person. Mayor Grant Mabie video-called into the meeting, as did City Attorney Lisa Stump and Ward 4 Alderman Tony Kennedy.

“As you know, we’re in an unprecedented time… The only good comment that I’ve heard is what a year this week has been,” said board President Mimi Duncan as she opened the meeting.

Crestwood was not the only governmental body that had to make changes to how it met last week. The St. Louis County Council met by video for the first time Tuesday, with members of the public able to call in by phone to listen and submit comments by email. The Mehlville Board of Education also met virtually Thursday to discuss how schooling and education would be handled in the upcoming weeks, as school districts across the St. Louis region extended closures to Wednesday, April 22.

City Administrator Kris Simpson said going forward, meetings during the coronavirus pandemic will be held virtually over Zoom, a remote videoconferencing service. Members of the public will be able to submit comments via a chat window, or submit comments in advance of the meeting to a staff member who will then read the comments into the record.

Business will bring 200 jobs to Crestwood with move

The city held public hearings for a conditional-use permit and a site plan for Woodard Restoration to operate at 9490 Watson Road in a plan that would bring 200 employees to Crestwood. Woodard is a fire and disaster restoration company which currently operates out of a location in Rock Hill.

The company is looking to move some of its operations to the former Gordmans location on Watson Road, next to Planet Fitness. The space would serve as headquarters for staff members and will be used for office, warehouse and equipment storage. The rug cleaning business would remain in Rock Hill.

Under the plans, the building can operate 24 hours with overnight parking of up to 40 vehicles, any missing or dead parking lot trees will be replaced, 8-foot screen walls will be erected around the trash, vehicle washing will be limited to the interior of the building and the parking lot will be resurfaced.

“While this area has traditionally been retail, the retail market has changed significantly in the last several years and the comprehensive plan does call for this part of the city to be a jobs hub,” said City Planner Cassie Harashe during the public hearing. “Woodard would bring over 200 daytime employees to be headquartered in this location, so I do believe it goes along with our comprehensive plan.”

The Board of Alderman ultimately voted to unanimously approve both the CUP and site plan. Since the public could not be physically present, residents could instead comment on the Facebook Live video feed to have their comments shared, although no members of the public did.