Haefner raises possibility of Oakville incorporating or forming new county

Incorporation option difficult to pursue, according to rep

By Gloria Lloyd

At her first town-hall meeting since the spring, Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, updated her constituents on the upcoming state legislative session, but also raised the possibility of incorporating Oakville as a city or a separate county.

Most of the questions Haefner fielded from the audience centered on the National Church Residences apartment complex under construction at 6050 Telegraph Road.

Hundreds of Oakville residents spoke against the three-story, 44-unit building at a series of meetings held this summer, objecting to the size and location of the project.

As a state legislator, Haefner had no direct involvement in the county zoning process for the building, she noted, but she got involved in the fight against it as a member of the community.

“When hundreds of people who have houses and businesses within a thousand feet are required to know of a zoning change and they don’t get notified, we have a problem,” she said. “When adjacent business owners and the sisters of St. Clare do not receive notice that they are going to have a variance hearing, we have an agenda. And that’s what we’re up against, and that’s what we’ve been fighting since May.”

The county has not made any modifications to its planning notification process, Haefner added.

Haefner outlined three options Oakville residents have to fight back: incorporating as a city, being annexed into an existing city like Green Park or Sunset Hills or breaking off to form its own county separate from St. Louis County.

Any of those options will be difficult for Oakville residents to pursue, Haefner noted, but she is interested in forming a committee to examine them. She provided a sign-up sheet for residents interested in participating in a committee to explore Oakville’s options for incorporation.

“In light of what’s happened in Oakville, what’s happened in Sunset Hills — they have procedures, and the courts just said, ‘It’s for safety, so you can bypass those procedures,’” Haefner said. “And in light of the city-county merger, we may have the attention of enough people. Call me crazy, but those are our options.”

Haefner said she is proud of the way the staff, students and families of the Mehlville School District have handled transfer students from the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District, noting that she commends the Mehlville Board of Education for paying for after-school activity buses so that the incoming students could participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

“I can promise you that the Mehlville School District will be paid for their students this year,” she said, adding that there are still many unknowns with the law and how it will be carried out next year.

“In short word, it’s a mess,” she said. “The courts decided for us what’s going to happen. Now it’s up to the Legislature to offer some real solutions to both unaccredited and accredited districts. We’re working on reasonable solutions, and our No. 1 goal is to provide a good education for all children in Missouri.”

The problem of education in these districts is a statewide problem, Haefner noted, since 40 percent of the state’s prisoners were educated in three districts which are now unaccredited or provisionally unaccredited — St. Louis public schools, Kansas City public schools and the Normandy School District.

Another issue with schools, Common Core, could become a statewide problem when rural schools realize that they do not have the broadband capabilities needed to give online assessments, she added.

Haefner also addressed “ObamaCare,” or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, noting that Missouri chose not to expand Medicaid coverage or create its own health exchange.

Under the federal law, states could expand Medicaid coverage to individuals making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level at no cost to the state for the first three years. After that time, the federal government would back off its support and the cost would be picked up increasingly by the states.

“If we were to take Medicaid expansion as it is, dictated by the federal government, the cost to the state of Missouri over the next seven years would be in excess of $700 million,” Haefner said. “That would have to come from somewhere obviously.

“It would have to come from education, or social services, or other services you expect from your state.”

For that reason, Missouri legislators decided not to expand Medicaid at this time and instead identify areas in the current Medicaid program that can be made more efficient to find savings to expand coverage, Haefner added. She has volunteered for the Medicaid transformation committee to help work on those plans.