Green Park mayor slams library review

County review finds no fault on part of any library officials

By Gloria Lloyd

Green Park Mayor Bob Reinagel said so much is inaccurate in a “ridiculous” county review of the Tesson Ferry Branch Library move that he did not know where to begin talking about it.

“I think this is just an inaccurate portraying of the facts to make (the county and the library) look good,” he said.

The report, commissioned by County Executive Charlie Dooley, was written by his special assistant, Jonathan Boesch, who also serves as south county liaison.

Although Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors Secretary Ed Ryan led the opposition to the library, he mentioned at public meetings that he was acting as a citizen, not in an official capacity for the fire district. However, throughout the review Boesch used the fire district and Ryan interchangeably as part of the opposition to the new library site.

“My overall opinion is it couldn’t have been written better (for the library) unless it was written by the library itself,” Ryan said. “In other words, they would have provided 100 percent of BS, and Dooley provided 99 percent BS.”

Library officials initially projected the new library would cost $20 million, which they downgraded to $16 million in an interview with the Call in March. When Ryan and other opponents of the library talked about the cost of the new library, however, they used the original figures the library provided, which earned Boesch’s ire in the review.

Ryan made his calculations before the library corrected the numbers to the Call.

“Ed Ryan has continually used five year old estimates and added to those numbers as if he was producing an accurate accounting of 2014 costs,” Boesch wrote. “He is also providing those estimates to the general public and misinforming their decisions. It is difficult to ask the county executive to act on behalf of a public who is intentionally or accidentally misinformed. Total costs will be around $16 million as compared to the $23.9 million presented by those associated with Save Tesson Library coalition. Many constituents have pointed to this erroneous $23.9 million in their complaints.”

Ryan’s estimate of $23.9 million stemmed from the library’s initial projection of a $20 million cost, plus the $1 million in county and library-paid road improvements to Musick Avenue — a cost Boesch did not mention in his review — and the cost of rain gardens, which Ryan said is required by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District but that the library did not include in its estimates.

In an account of a March meeting that Ryan organized in protest of the move, Boesch misquoted Green Park Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa’s comments at the meeting. Boesch represented Dooley at the meeting, which was also attended by and reported on by the Call.

In the review, Boesch wrote that Pousosa held up minutes from a County Council meeting and said that the “council approved the sale of the (library) land.”

In the next sentence, Boesch wrote, “The council never had jurisdiction over the sale.”

However, the Call confirmed through an audio recording of the meeting that Pousosa did not say the words Boesch quoted him as saying, or anything that could be accurately paraphrased that way.

Pousosa is running for the Republican nomination for county executive in the Aug. 5 primary against Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood.

Ryan specifically said at the meeting, “This is not a political rally,” and noted that he invited Dooley and 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, in addition to local official Pousosa. But Boesch later told the Call that he considered the meeting to be a political rally for Pousosa and that people he talked to at the meeting did not even know why they were there.

Boesch included that last criticism in the review, without any mention of the dozens of citizen comments during the meeting that were largely directed at library and county officials, including Dooley and Stenger. However, audience members were upset at the city of Green Park, not at the county or library, according to Boesch’s account.

“After the meeting, many residents noted (to Boesch) that they weren’t interested in this issue since the library had already bought the property,” Boesch wrote. “They also complained that city leaders waited too long to inform them of the change.”

Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, who represents residents living near both the new and old library sites and is running against Dooley in the Aug. 5 Democratic primary for county executive, said he disagreed with that conclusion.

“It seems like the library commission made up its mind where it was going to place these libraries, and that was it,” Stenger told the Call. “I get asked by residents why there wasn’t a better notification from the library commission. And in this case, they really didn’t get the word out. I can tell you we weren’t consulted on the council in any regard, so we have the same issue.”

The public had plenty of opportunity at those meetings to comment on the Tesson Ferry decision if they wanted their thoughts on the library to be heard, Dooley told the Call last week.

“There were public hearings on both sites (at Tesson Ferry and Lewis and Clark), so that’s not necessarily true (that people did not know about the plans),” he said. “There were public hearings, it was on the ballot as such, the language was such. So they may disagree with it, but I think the proper process was done.”

Library Executive Director Kristen Sorth and Library Communications Manager Jennifer McBride did not respond to the Call’s requests for comment on the review.