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

Two former aldermen contend Green Park officials not responsive to residents

Green Park Road grant application ‘pencil whipped,’ former alderman says

Two former Ward 2 aldermen recently criticized the Green Park Board of Aldermen, contending city officials are not responsive to residents.

Former Ward 2 Alderman Tony Konopka and former Ward 2 Alderman Fred Hoehn both contended during a recent period for public comment that city officials do not respond to queries made by residents.

Konopka said he believed city officials are more responsive to business leaders than residents, citing the Green Park Chamber of Commerce, which he contended was successful in obtaining changes it wanted approved in a revised sign code.

Hoehn termed the Board of Aldermen “dysfunctional,” contending that one of his aldermen can’t obtain replies from other city officials. He also distributed a letter he had received from an East-West Gateway Council of Governments official in response to concerns he had raised about whether city officials had sufficient information when they applied for a grant to improve Green Park Road.

During his comments at the Nov. 20 meeting, Konopka contended that residents have very little input into city affairs, citing his experiences with filing some complaints with the city.

“… You may think there Tony is just being a crab with these complaints, but I’m saying that I am placing complaints that people call me about because they don’t want to come to Green Park City Hall,” he said. “They have been to Green Park City Hall and have been talked down to and treated rudely. And they don’t want to come in here any more, and I say it isn’t going to deter me from coming in, OK? But … it gets pretty hard for residents to get anything accomplished.

“I did see — maybe residents need to follow Green Park Chamber of Commerce’s example in getting things. They have been able to get things done where residents haven’t, such as the changing of the sign code, OK?” Konopka said. “Now, you get a few businesses complaining about the sign code, so right away we jump on it. We take it to (the) Planning and Zoning (Commission). We take it to the Board of Aldermen to make changes, all right? But one of the people that complained was one that actually worked on the original document, worked on the original sign code. At that time, it was OK. But now, all of a sudden, it isn’t for some reason because another person had complained.

“So I say maybe we need to take example from the Green Park chamber and what would you say … come bearing gifts? Where you look our mayor had received an award — Citizen of the Year. All right. Our city administrator also won some kind of an award — manager, something or other. All right. All from Green Park Chamber of Commerce. Green Park Chamber of Commerce put the flagpole out there. OK. There was an alderman who is the only alderman that was invited or allowed to attend Green Park chamber meetings, and I was on the board at the time and I asked if another alderman possibly could attend a meeting. And I was told no. It just so happened, this alderman, he had two of his children won — got awards from the Green Park chamber.

“Now, I’m sorry folks, I know there’s another fellow using farm-animal analogies, OK? A pig and a pig with lipstick. Well, to me, I’ll use if it quacks a duck, walks like a duck, it must be a duck. I’m not very happy …,” Konopka said.

At an Oct. 30 public hearing on proposed improvements to Green Park Road, Hoehn contended the city did not provide East-West Gateway with as much documentation as was requested in the city’s grant application. The $2.2 million project — 80 percent of which is being funded through a federal grant — will stretch roughly 6,000 feet along Green Park Road from Tesson Ferry Road to Lin Valle Drive.

Hoehn specifically questioned whether the average daily traffic figure would remain unchanged after the improvements were completed as the city stated, and a lack of documentation in the grant’s congestion section.

Furthermore, Hoehn said the city did not include accident reports in the grant application for the years 2000 through 2002, while Mayor Steve Armstrong later said the reports were not required when the city submitted its application.

On Nov. 20, Hoehn asked, “Alderman Betlach, did you ever get those police reports?’

She replied, “No, sir.”

Hoehn said, “OK. This is with reference to Green Park Road …”

Betlach said, “I would remind you, at the last meeting the board decided they didn’t want to get them.”

Hoehn said, “OK. Well, I see that as playing dodge ball. You’re playing dodge ball with the administration, and on the original grant, it said attached. It’s not attached. As far as I’m concerned, the grant for Green Park Road was ‘pencil whipped.’ Do any of you know what that means? Anybody? (Ward 2 Alderman) Chuck (Deters), you were in the service.”

Armstrong interjected, “Mr. Hoehn, it’s your opportunity to speak to the board, but it’s not a two-way conversation.”

Hoehn asked, “Say what?”

Armstrong replied, “I said it’s your opportunity to speak to the board, but you have …”

Hoehn interjected, “Yeah, I’m speaking to them. Pencil whipped means that things are signed off and there’s no attention paid to it. It’s just filled in spaces. When we had the storm in July, the generators wouldn’t start at the airport — the emergency generators — but all their inspections were signed off that those generators ran.

“That’s an example of pencil whipping and that’s what happened with your grant, as far as I’m concerned. And I know that you people are all kept up to speed on everything here — you are, not me, you. I had a reply from East-West Gateway on the 9th about questions I asked them and issues I brought up the last time,” he said.

“Have you got that tonight in your package? It was also addressed to the city. Do you have it? You don’t have it. I’m sure you don’t. Well, you’re going to get it now,” Hoehn said as he distributed copies of the Nov. 9 letter from James M. Wild, division manager for East-West Gateway, to the city’s aldermen.

In his letter to Hoehn, Wild acknowledged that the same average daily traffic figure listed both before and after the improvements were completed “should have been questioned” and the city would be asked to provide additional information. Wild also wrote that East-West Gateway will request additional accident information from the city as well as additional information about how the level of service was calculated regarding congestion.

“… I haven’t replied to Mr. Wild yet, but he’s sure going to get a reply because his letter was nothing more than CYA, and I’m sure you know that, what that term is,” he continued. “You guys read this. What I’ve tried to do is bring some light in here to build this road properly if you’re going to build it and not waste $2.5 million, as far as I’m concerned. And I think I stated that the last time … I guess what I’m trying to say and other people have said it tonight … we’re supposed to have input here and you’re supposed to be our advocates. You’re not being our advocates here in this city. You’re acting like mushrooms. And as long as you’re allowing yourselves to be treated as mushrooms, then this is going to continue this way. I just listened to Mr. Konopka, who was very diplomatic, by the way, I thought.”

Konopka said, “I forgot about the gift baskets at Christmas time to all the board members by the Green Park chamber …”

Hoehn continued, “I don’t know anything about that … I have to agree with Mr. Konopka …”

He later added, “But everything that Mr. Konopka named off translates to one thing: We have a dysfunctional aldermanic board because people are not getting replies. I haven’t asked people for replies. I’ve taken it to my alderman, whom I’m able to get a hold of sometimes, the one, Judy (Betlach), and she can’t get my answers.”

Hoehn then read from Wild’s letter, which stated, “Now that the project is in the design phase, it would seem more appropriate at this point for you to communicate these kinds of concerns directly to the city.”

But he said, “I don’t really trust that the city will give me a straightforward answer, and since it’s a public record, I can go anywhere I want to with anybody that handles this stuff. You guys have got this at East-West Gateway. You’ve got it at a MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation). It’s littered with mistakes …”

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