Green Park board holds payment for snow removal

Company’s removal of snow, ice ‘horrible,’ alderman says

By BURKE WASSON

Amid dissatisfaction with snow removal this winter and uncertainty over bills for that service, Green Park aldermen have held an $18,410 payment to Custom Tree & Lawn Services.

Aldermen unanimously agreed to delay consideration of that payment until the board’s March 17 meeting, when Custom Tree representatives will be invited to attend.

Mayor Tony Konopka acknowledged that Custom Tree had problems specifically during a Feb. 1 snowstorm because of equipment malfunctions.

“I was not at all pleased with what happened with the snow removal,” Konopka said. “Things have happened. I somebody could have been at my house answering phone calls. I’m not making excuses, but I know we had — I believe it was 10 inches of snow in 24 hours. And that was the most snow that we’ve had in 15 years. Still, it’s not an excuse for what was done.

“The contractor did have an equipment problem, an equipment breakdown. And that was one of the reasons. I have been in contact with the contractor and talked to him in regard to the problems and hopefully this won’t occur again. I think the years that I have known this contractor work for the city … most of the time, he’s done a pretty good job.”

But Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston characterized Custom Tree’s removal of ice and snow from a January snowstorm as “horrible.”

“(Former Green Park Mayor) Steve Armstrong brought it to my attention at the last (Jan. 22) meeting about how poor we performed in previous snows,” Thuston said. “So I did take the initiative to drive around and go to various streets. And to say these guys had some equipment failure would be somewhat ridiculous.

“At 9 o’clock in the morning, I went to Flori … Kohrs, Patsy … no snow had been plowed … Cedarberry was plowed. At 9:30, Antigo, Alex, Ambush, Arno, Garrett, Colchis, Schoenfeld, none of those had been plowed and no salt was on them. I don’t know what these guys were doing.”

Thuston also said he was perturbed at city officials for not being present at City Hall during the Feb. 1 snowfall to accommodate residents.

“I came up to City Hall and no one was here,” Thuston said. “My phone was ringing off the hook. I don’t know if a lot of you other guys were getting a lot of calls, but people were going down the list and just calling, calling, calling … And people were very disturbed with nobody answering their phone calls other than the recorder here at City Hall. So when I saw no one was here, I opted to go back home, get my key and come up to City Hall and answer the phone firsthand because I know myself when I get a phone call and I get an answering machine, I’m not happy, especially when I’m disturbed. So it got worse and it got worse.

“Then 10 o’clock, I looked at the other streets — Lisa Marie … Juniper, Hillcrest … nothing had been plowed. I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they weren’t plowing the streets. I talked to several people and asked them to please call and tell me when their streets got plowed. And some of them were plowed … Arno was plowed at 6 p.m. — first time it was plowed. One of the streets was cleared. And it was cleared because we had a resident … (who) had a four-wheeler and he got out there and cleared quite a bit himself.”

Konopka replied that because many city employees do not live in Green Park, the inclement weather caused them to stay home during the Feb. 1 snowstorm.

“Our staff didn’t come into City Hall,” Konopka said. “And the reason our staff didn’t come into City Hall is because they couldn’t make it into City Hall. The reason they couldn’t make it into City Hall is because they live outside of the city of Green Park. They don’t live in Green Park. They also had a problem, St. Louis County also had a problem with those streets. The reason they were not good is because they couldn’t get them. So it wasn’t a problem that was just localized in Green Park. It was countywide.

“And in regard to the comment about Mr. Armstrong telling you what a poor job that this contractor did in the prior snowfall, I guess the job changes from one side of the street. I did have a resident call me that lives on Mr. Armstrong’s street complimenting me on what a fine job they’d done.

“So right now, I’m sort of well, who do I listen to? But anyway, we can get together later and talk about that.”

Thuston said, “Well, just to answer that, I drove myself firsthand in my vehicle and I visited every street.”

Konopka said, “I was referring to your comment about how the streets were at the previous snowfall before that and how Steve Armstrong called you and said what a poor job they did. And I’m saying that particular snowfall, I got a call complimenting the contractor on what a good job they’d done. So I guess it’s a semantics matter we’re really looking at. Anyway, we will discuss that with the contractor and have a discussion with them.”

Aldermen also grappled last week with confusion over the dates of snow removal for which Custom Tree had billed the city.

While the board authorized a payment of $16,841 on Jan. 22 to Custom Tree for snow removal during a previous storm, Konopka and aldermen were split whether that removal applied to a Dec. 15 snowfall or possibly another date.

“On Jan. 22, we had a bill for $16,841,” Thuston said. “We discussed it at the last meeting and approved it. If that was for the first snow (in December), what’s the $18,410 for that we’re about to approve?”

“The answer is I don’t know,” Konopka said. “I’m feeling the $18,410 was for the first snowfall, the first one. The first one of the three.”

“Dec. 15?” Thuston said.

“The $16,000 one is the one we have just received,” Konopka said. “So I don’t know what the confusion is.”

In any case, Thuston said he would like to question Custom Tree representatives at the board’s March 17 meeting to determine billing and labor for snowfalls in Green Park this winter.

“I think to say it was an equipment breakdown, I think we need to look at where the money we’re spending for these guys is going,” Thuston said. “I’d like to bring those guys to the next board meeting and have them be more accountable than what they did for us because it was a terrible job. Terrible.

“Also, I wasn’t happy when I came up to City Hall, Tony, and you questioned why I was here. I was here to answer the phone.”

The next meeting of the Board of Alder-men will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, March 17, at City Hall, 11100 Mueller Road, Suite 3.