South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Group hopes to deliver 2,000 signatures on petition to reconsider lease

A group of Crestwood residents seeking a public vote to reconsider an ordinance approving a lease agreement with the Westfield Corp. has collected about 1,700 signatures — nearly 600 more than required.

And the citizens’ group hopes to collect 2,000 signatures by 11 a.m. Friday, June 10, when members plan to deliver the signed petitions to Crestwood City Clerk Kimberly Cottle, according to Jim Murphy, a former state representative who is serving as spokesman for the group.

“We expect 2,000 (signatures),” Murphy told the Call, adding that he believes the number of signatures should send a message to the city’s elected officials. “It’s amazing. People are just upset.”

The citizens’ group, called the Crestwood Citizens for Financial Responsibility, is seeking the reconsideration of the ordinance adopted April 26 by the Board of Aldermen and signed by former Mayor Tom Fagan.

Five residents — Donald G. Clark, Zachary McGee, Donald Zinzer, Lillian C. Casey and Donald B. Ulmer — forming a Petitioners Committee submitted an affidavit for a referendum to reconsider the ordinance, No. 3,898.

As proposed, the city would lease office space at the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood for roughly 18 months while the retrofitting of the Government Center to include a new police facility takes place. Under the agreement, the city would lease roughly 14,827 square feet of office space at a cost of $3,333.33 per month.

Residents want to restore the city’s financial health be-fore proceeding with the renovation of the Government Center to include a new police facility, Murphy has said.

Residents are baffled, according to Murphy, that city officials are so intent on moving forward with the renovation project at a time when the city is borrowing money for operating expenses.

“They only thing that we’re trying to do is calm the boys down,” Murphy said.

Roughly 1,125 signatures of the city’s registered voters are needed for reconsideration of the ordinance. The City Charter states that if an ordinance is returned to the Board of Aldermen and the board fails to repeal the measure, voters then will consider it at a city election. Such an election would cost roughly $10,000, according to the group’s petition.

But even if the group is successful in having the ordinance repealed, it may be a moot issue, according to City Attorney Rob Golterman.

During the May 10 Board of Aldermen meeting, he said that the ordinance has been “fully effectuated” and the lease agreement between Westfield and the city is a valid and binding contract.

“It is at least my opinion and judgment that at this point a referendum petition cannot be used to alter that contractual relationship. So that at the end of the day if this ordinance is repealed or reconsidered by the board, it may not have an impact on the terms of the lease or the city’s rights and obligations under the lease. That topic continues to be researched …,” Golterman said May 10.

Voters in August 2002 approved Proposition S, the extension of a half-cent sales tax to fund construction of a new police building, fund repairs at the Government Center and allow the continuation of the city’s street repair and replace-ment program.

The half-cent, capital-improvements sales tax had been scheduled to end in 2008, but voter approval of Proposition S extended the sales tax until 2023.

In November 2002, the city issued $9.83 million in certificates of participation — or COPs — to fund the construction of a new police building and repairs to the Gov-ernment Center.

The certificates, which carry an average interest rate of 4.21 percent, will be retired over a 20-year period with revenue from the city’s half-cent capital-improvement sales tax. The city’s payments are roughly $730,000 per year.

Interest over the 20-year period will total roughly $4.8 million, bringing the total cost to $14.6 million.

Due to the rising costs of concrete and steel, aldermen last summer scrapped the construction of the stand-alone police building and decided to retrofit the Government Center to include a new police facility.

Aldermen voted 6-2 in January to authorize the completion of construction plans and bid documents for the project and authorized the solicitation of bids after the plans and bid documents have been completed. Ward 3 Alder-men Jerry Miguel and Don Maddox were opposed.

Current plans estimate the cost of the entire project at $7.867 million, including relocation costs, contingencies, professional fees and furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The cost of issuance and professional fees for the $9.83 million in COPs totaled $344,287. Subtracting the renovation project cost of $7.867 million and the issuance cost of $344,287 from the $9.83 million in COPs proceeds would leave $1,618,713 if the project is constructed as currently planned, according to City Administrator Don Greer, who also serves as police chief.

More to Discover