Mehlville fire board OKs excellent compromise on the issue of inspections

Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony


In his March 2 “My Call” column, Call General Manager Bill Milligan urged the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors not to eliminate mandatory inspections of new one- and two-family dwellings during construction.

But we believe the board’s action taken last week is an excellent compromise that still maintains the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s high standards of safety.

The board voted 2-1 Friday morning to eliminate the mandatory inspections that have been performed by the district since 1954. But the board’s action provides that the inspections of new one- and two-family dwellings will be performed on a voluntary basis if requested by contractors or homeowners. Furthermore, the voluntary inspections will be conducted at a reduced cost. Fire Marshal Ed Berkel recommended that the inspection fee for a new residence be $250 — compared to the district’s average 2004 cost of $341.57.

The issue of the inspections first was raised by a representative of the Home Builders Association of Greater St. Louis and Eastern Missouri, who contended that because St. Louis County also conducts such inspections, the ones performed by Mehlville are a duplication of services.

Secretary Daniel Ottoline Sr. was opposed to eliminating the inspections. He generally is opposed to anything Chairman Aaron Hilmer or Treasurer Bonnie Stegman propose.

Mr. Ottoline also contended that Mr. Hilmer and Mrs. Stegman should not vote on the inspection issue because a political action committee of the Home Builders Association contributed $20,000 to a committee that supported Mr. Hilmer and Mrs. Stegman when they ran for office a year ago. We found Mr. Ottoline’s logic fascinating, but don’t agree with it.

However, if Mr. Ottoline is such a firm believer that a conflict exists for Mr. Hilmer and Mrs. Stegman, then he should not vote on any issue regarding any union employee of the fire district.

We say that because Local 1889’s political action committee, the Mehlville Firefighters Action Committee to Elect, spent nearly $6,000 on behalf of Mr. Ottoline when he ran for the board in April 1999. Ironically, one of his opponents then was Mrs. Stegman.

We don’t believe Mr. Hilmer and Mrs. Stegman have a conflict in voting for eliminating the inspections. But if Mr. Ottoline is sincere in his belief, then we can expect him from refraining to vote in the future on any matter involving Local 1889 employees.