Councilmember Crow Talks Firehouse, City Attorney and Driving Range Lights
Councilmember Terry Crow's latest newsletter to his constituents in the 1st Ward features his thoughts on the new firehouse and the driving range lights.
Hello 1st ward Constituents and other concerned citizens of University City!
Thank you for your continued interest in the decisions of our city government, decisions which affect the quality of life of each of us and our neighbors. Since my last e-mail update, some notable events have occurred at City Hall that I'd like to share with you today.
New fire station: Construction of a new fire station was approved by the Council on a 6-1 vote. While I have serious concerns about the cost and location, I am also convinced that this is the right time for this, so I voted in favor of it. We need to take advantage of the available $2.6 million in federal grant money to make this happen. I toured our 108 year-old fire house recently and saw many problems with the current structure. The new facility will help the firefighters who protect our lives and property to do so in a safer, more efficient environment.
The new station will be located at Eastgate and Vernon on land donated by Washington University. I realize that there is some concern over the proximity of the station to Ward 1, but for better or worse, the location was never part of the discussion until the 11th hour, and then the Council as a body did not explore this further. The city manager estimates the cost to us at $874,000. Changes during construction are common. I predict probable overruns that could bring the actual cost to the city to something over $1 million. I have instructed the city manager to keep the expenditures for this project under close scrutiny, and I hope that my request will be heeded. The money for this project will come from our tax reserves, which currently total around $11 million. About nine million of those dollars exist largely du e to the efforts of former city attorney and prosecutor, John Mulligan, which brings me to my next topic of concern.
Replacement of our city attorney and prosecutor: For about 25 years, Mr. Mulligan served as our city's prosecutor, and for many of those years, he also served as our city attorney. At the last council meeting, on November 14th, he was replaced in a move that was unwise and clearly politically motivated. Our city's new attorney is Paul Martin. I have no qualms with the past work he has done for the city, but he was not the lowest bidder. My primary concern is that we have retained for city prosecutor someone with much less experience in this field but our cost was not reduced. The firm of Crotzer and Ormsby has been named as the City Prosecutor with the primary contact being an attorney who graduated law school in 2008 and has no experience in municipal prosecution.
I don't mind a shake-up now and then, but this one makes no sense. We have given up 25 years of experience for someone who has been out of law school for three years. The council is truly politicizing the prosecutor's position rather than choosing the most qualified professional. I find it disturbing that I was the only member of council who asked any questions about these contracts when they came up for a vote. Without Mr. Mulligan's work on the telephone company lawsuits, our city wouldn't have nearly the reserves it has, and those who voted him out would not have been able to vote for the new fire station. At the end of the day, this is about getting the best legal advice for the city at the best price. The manager and council have failed in their duty to do so, and the city may suffer for it.
Golf Course Update: It is now past any reasonable time for the decision to be made to turn the lights at the Ruth Park driving range back on, per the request of numerous citizens. Our city manager has commissioned, at further expense to the city, yet another study of the driving range to be done by a different landscape architectural firm, in hopes that their conclusions will match his previous rash decision to shut off the lights. In the meantime, they have remained off. There is no reason to believe that the previous study was flawed or that the previous firm was unqualified. And yet no information has been shared with me, or to my knowledge any other council member, regarding the findings of such a study. Now that it is mid-November, I predict that the lights will remain off until the next election, in mid-April, and possibly remain off forever, despite reasonable objections of so many of our citizens.
As always, feel free to contact me with your concerns and questions regarding these and any other actions of your City Council.