Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

Posts Tagged ‘University City Patch’

Plan Commission Meetings Discuss City Plan, Zoning Code Revision

Combined City Council and Plan Commission members at Wednesday's joint session.

Combined City Council and Plan Commission members at Wednesday's joint session.

Joint session with city council discussed the comprehensive city plan process, and the plan commission discussed adding check-cashing establishments to zoning code

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 30, 2011

Members of the Plan Commission met twice on Wednesday, first with the city council and then for its regular session.

Joint Session:

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch, City Manager Lehman Walker, and city councilmembers met with the Plan Commission, led by Ben Halpert to discuss the planning process of a new city plan.

“The first comprehensive plan for University City was adopted in 1922. Subsequent plans were published in 1931, 1958, 1986, 1999, and 2005,” Walker said. He noted that he was the author of the 1999 plan, and actively involved with the development of the 2005 plan.

Walker said that the plan updates should occur in five to 10 year increments. Andrea Riganti, Director of Community Development added that the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity to describe the planning process, what it is, and the timeline to develop a plan.

“A comprehensive plan is a vision for the community, an expression of what we want the community to be, where we are now, and what is desired,” she said.

In the roughly hour-and-a-half session, council members and plan commission members discussed a list of survey questions that Ray Lai, the Deputy Director of Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development had asked of them.  Some of the questions from the survey included ‘What level of citizen engagement would you like to see?’

Plan Commission Meeting

After the adjournment of the joint session, the Plan Commission passed the minutes from the four previous meetings, with Chair Ben Halpert noting that they did not have to have a quorum to approve minutes.

On continued business from the March 23 meeting, the minor subdivision and final plat of 7286 Creveling Drive was withdrawn, per a letter the planning department received on April 25.  The original minor subdivision was brought to the Plan Commission, because the owner of the property, Mike Manlin of MRM Manlin Development Group wished to subdivide his lot into two, to build another home. Manlin withdrew his application because he found that the lot, which he wanted to subdivide, was already a legal lot.

Zach Greatens of the Planning Department stated that St. Louis County had combined the lots for tax purposes at an earlier point in time.

A zoning map amendment for  Li Hua Lu and Zun Xing Li at 8162 Olive Boulevard had been requested to be tabled until the May 25 Plan Commission meeting because Mr. Li needed to have a “surveyor prepare a new site plan with the flood plain (sic) information shown.”

Mr. Halpert made a motion to move Mr. Lai’s application to be heard at the May 25 meeting, and was unanimously agreed to.

Mr. Greatens of the Planning Department then presented a text amendment to the zoning code regarding short-term loan establishments, more commonly known as payday loans, title lenders, and check-cashing establishments.

The reasons for the changes were at the request of the City Council, through City Manager Lehman Walker in light of Representative Rory Ellinger’s (D-72 University City) payday loan hearing at Centennial Commons in February.

The text amendment would add check-cashing, short-term loan establishments, and title lenders to standards for a conditional use permit approval.

During the discussion, Nova Felton, one of the commissioners asked how neighboring Clayton had no institutions if cities cannot deny applications for these sorts of establishments.

The amendment would prohibit the approval of a permit if an establishment would be located 1000 feet of another similar establishment, or within 500 feet of a public activity area, such as a park, or residential property.

The city attorney was on hand to answer questions the commission members had about the proposed amendment.

The bulk of the meeting was the discussion of whether the conditional use permits would be transferable to new owners, if the business changed hands, as Tom Byrne and Councilman Steve Kraft questioned. The text states that the “conditional use permit shall not be transferable to a successor land owner or operator.”

“But in a way it’s kind of a moot point, because you have to apply every single year for this do you not?” Byrne asked.

“Correct,” Greatens responded.

Byrne followed up by asking that if the transfer of ownership happened within that year, the permit would still have to be applied for. Greatens concurred.

In further discussion, Ben Senturia and Felton were not sure whether check-cashing establishments should be classified in the same way as payday lenders, and a motion was made to table the issue until the May 25 meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

The last business at the meeting was Mr. Greatens presentation on subdivision regulations and their review and approval procedures, to help explain the differences between minor and major subdivisions of property to the commissioners.

The meeting adjourned at 8pm. The next scheduled Plan Commission meeting is May 25 in the EOCin City Hall.

City Council Considers Domestic Partnerships, Budget Transfers

Mayor Welsch, Councilmember Terry Crow collaborate on bill to extend domestic partnerships to residents of University City

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 26, 2011

Mayor Shelley Welsch and Councilmember Terry Crow introduced a bill to permit domestic partnerships in University City at Monday’s council meeting.

The domestic partnership ordinance would be the first of its kind in St. Louis County. The City of St. Louis has a similar domestic partnership ordinance that was passed by the Board of Alderman in 2005. At the meeting, Mayor Welsch said that she and Crow had been writing an ordinance to permit domestic partnerships in U City separately and combined forces to write bill 9114, which was given its first reading at the meeting.

“Mr. Crow and I met last week, and both discovered we were working on this bill, so we talked about it, and the bill introduced tonight is a combination of the two bills,” Welsch said.

The ordinance would allow for two unmarried adults who consider themselves to be part of each other’s immediate family and share a common residence, to go to the City Clerk’s office and for a fee of 10 dollars, will be added to the domestic partnership registry.

The ordinance states: the establishments of a registry for recognition of domestic partners will facilitate public and private employers, businesses and universities in the provision of health benefits, visitation of a patient in health care facilities, and other important recognition to a registered partner.

Margaret Johnson, a University City resident, was very happy that the domestic partnership bill was being read in council.

“My partner and I have been partners for 25 years, and we have spent a lot of money, ever 5 years creating legal rights between one another, so that we have hospital visitation rights, the kind of things married people take for granted.”

She said that the bill’s passage would make it easier for them to be recognized as domestic partners in University City. She also noted that she was happy to see Mayor Welsch and Councilmember Crow working together on something.

During the residential comments on the bill, one resident did express reservations about the wording of the bill, referring to the “relationship between two unmarried adults” and expressed concern that the bill would exclude married people. During his remarks, he reiterated that he was not in opposition to the bill, just the wording.

Also read at the council meeting was a bill that would add a section to the Charter that would create a so-called “Department of Administrative Services” which would “coordinate information technology and telecommunications projects for city departments,” according the text ofthe bill. The department aims to centralize the technological infrastructure of the city.

In public comments, a resident expressed reservations about the need of “additional overhead” of another office. The person also wondered why the departments of personnel and finance were not removed and made part of the department of administrative services, rather than create a new office that oversees those departments.

There was some controversy about Bill 9111 in the unfinished business agenda. The bill would allow the city manager to make transfers of unspent monies and transfer them within a department and then advise the council of the transfer afterward. The legislation states if the amount is over $25,000, the council would have to be notified and the council must approve the transfer through motion or resolution.

Walker cannot transfer between departments. All transfers must be reported to the city council.  No transfers are allowed over $25,000.

Several council members said they thought that it would be inappropriate for the city manager to make changes to the budget after city council approved it.

U City resident, Paulette Carr expressed concern that the city council was transferring its authority to current City Manager Lehman Walker, and reiterated the role of the city council in the budget process.

Bill 9111 passed with a roll call vote.

During the City Manager’s report, the council voted to proceed with the purchase of a Toro GM 5900 mower at cost of $73,644.07, minus the trade in value of the old mower at $7,664.07, for a total cost to the city of $66,000.00.

Liquor Licenses for the Walgreens at 530 North McKnight and 7501 Olive were passed, as well as a liquor license for the Qdoba Mexican Grill at 6625 Delmar.

In other council actions, Charlotte Tatum was sworn in to the Arts and Letters Commission, along with Daniel Wofsey who was sworn into the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority in the City Clerk’s office.

The meeting adjourned at 8pm, after comments from the council. Councilmember Terry Crow expressed happiness that the city is bringing back a program where high school students will be able to work for several departments of the University City government.

The next city council meeting is Monday, May 9th.



City Council Bill Proposes Fines for People Who Obstruct Sidewalks and Streets in the Loop

Fines could be as high as $1,000

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 26, 2011

The City Council on Monday night took up a bill that would address the large number of teens in the Loop.

Bill 9112, if passed, would be an ordinance that would amend Chapter 9 of the city municipal code, removing a section that currently pertains to panhandling, and replacing it with a new section, 9.08.045, entitled  “obstructing or interfering with the use of sidewalks and streets.”

Bill 9112 states that it would become illegal for people to assemble, or loiter, or walk, on any sidewalk or the street in a manner that would interfere with the use of the sidewalk or street. A person found in violation could receive a fine of as much as $1,000.

Earlier in the council meeting, during the citizen participation section of the agenda, Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill talked about the curfew. University City has said it will re-consider lowering the curfew hours. Currently, people under 17 and have to be off the streets in the Loop by 9pm. There had been talk of pushing back the curfew to as early as 6pm for some teenagers.

Edwards said that 6pm was too early for the curfew, and suggested making “two reasonable small steps” of adjusting the curfew by 1 hour and 1 year.

“Six o’clock is way too early, and that eliminates the opportunity for a lot of good teenagers to enjoy the Loop,” Edwards said.

Edwards thought that moving the curfew back one hour from 9pm, to 8pm and increasing the curfew age from 16 to 17 would alleviate the problems with unruly youth in the Loop.

Edwards said that it would be beneficial to not have 17-year-olds after 8 o’clock, “that could be doing other things.” He said  that by eliminating 17-year-olds in the Loop, it would reduce the 18 and 19 year-olds that were “predatory in nature” from hanging around.

Edwards said changing the curfew from 9pm to 8pm would make it easier and safer for the police, because the curfew would still be during daylight hours. Changing it by one hour, he stated would not penalize the good teenagers that are in the Loop.

Ed Reggi, a civil rights activist, and City of St. Louis resident had concerns about the wording of bill 9112 and addressed those concerns during the meeting.

Reggi said that sidewalks, streets, and parks have been traditional venues for public and civil discourse, and that the proposed ordinance could hinder people’s right to assembly on public sidewalk, because of the wording. The Supreme Court, he said, had said that.

“I am totally opposed to a $1,000 fine for someone who is ‘blocking the sidewalk,’” Reggi said in his comments.

He said after the meeting that ordinances like this “chip away at our civil liberties.”

The bill’s first reading was at Monday night’s council meeting. A second reading will occur at the May 9th city council meeting.



Parking Takes Center Stage at Traffic Commission Meeting

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 14, 2011

In a short meeting Wednesday night, the University City Traffic Commission covered a lot of ground.

After approving minutes from the March 9th meeting, the first order of business were changes that will be coming to the Centennial Greenway Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle walkway that joins Washington University and Ackert Walkway along Melville Avenue, between Kingsland and Delmar.

The trail ends at Delmar, in a plaza currently under construction, which will have traffic signals at the intersection.  The construction required the removal of 37 parking spaces on the west side of Melville. Washington University has donated land to the project to allow for the creation of 22 spaces to make up for the loses.

William Courtney, owner of Cheese-ology Mac and Cheese, located at 6602 Delmar, gave the recommendations of the traffic commission for the project his full backing.

“I’m fully in support of them. I think they are great ideas [the parking and traffic changes], keeping Melville two-way, [and] allowing traffic flow through that area.”

He did have a concern about the parking verses no parking areas along Loop South (Avenue A) between Melville and Leland.

Courtney said he was surprised with ordinance 10.44.010, which stated that there is no parking on both sides, 90 feet from Melville. He said that aside from 10 feet of yellow curb, there is no indication of no-parking being allowed on the north side of the street.

“I would really like to recommend is that you, the commission, would speak to whoever is necessary to get signage and curb painting put on the north side, because people currently park there,” Courtney said. He noted that there really isn’t enough space for cars to move in both directions in that location, and that he felt it was an emergency hazard as well.

University City Police Officer  Shaun Margul, who represents the department at the Traffic meetings, addressed Courtney’s concerns, noting that there is a no parking sign immediately east of the parking lot behind Cheese-ology, where parking tickets are issued as much as the department is able to. To the west of the parking lot, there is no parking permitted.

After Courtney’s testimony, the commission listened to the Public Works Department’s recommendations to amend the municipal code to restrict parking on the west side of Melville between Kingsbury and Delmar and allow perpendicular parking on the south side of Loop South (Avenue A) between Melville and Leland.

The Public Works department’s recommendations were passed by a voice vote.

The second item on the agenda was the Olive Streetscape Project Phase III, which involved a request to eliminate a pedestrian crossing on Olive Boulevard west of Hanley Road. The pedestrian crossing is on the northwest corner. The city is upgrading sidewalks and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) access points on Olive.  A proposal was  given to the city by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT)  to eliminate the crossing on the west side of Hanley. In the March 9meeting, Lee Cannon, the city’s traffic engineer consultant presented three designs, and noted their noncompliance with ADA. Option A does not have level landings, which are not ADA compliant. Option B, MoDOT’s proposal, doesn’t meet ADA guidelines because a level landing cannot be constructed at the curb because of the existing grade. Option C, is not ADA compliant, but keeps the crossing, and adds ADA compliant components, such as 2 signal pushbuttons, which need to be coordinated with MoDOT’s

The removal of the crosswalk is not under consideration, and the issue was tabled until the commission gets additional information from MoDOT.

The final item on the agenda was a request to install a stop sign on Enright Avenue at Westgate. Officer Margul said that a stop sign was needed at that intersection, a T-type. A temporary stop sign was added to the intersection after the police department expressed safety concerns.  There have been 10 accidents at that intersection over three years.

Margul noted that a stop can’t be placed there, because not ordinance exists for the stop sign to be placed.  The commission passed a motion to have City Council pass an ordinance to place a stop sign at Enright and Westgate. The motion was seconded and approved.

Lastly, a comment from resident who recently purchased a home on Crest and frequents the Schnucks on Olive, and when turning off of Ferguson onto Olive, he is met with a very long light, which he feels he could make if the sign was changed to yield on green, rather than have to wait on the light. Members of the commission met his situation with agreement.

The signal is operated by the state, and the resident was instructed to give his contact info to the Public Works department, and the city will look into the situation.

The meeting adjourned at 7pm. The next scheduled meeting of the Traffic Commission is May 11 at 6:30 pm in the EOC Room.


University City Tool Library Strategizes on Increasing Membership

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 13, 2011

This week’s meeting of the University City tool lending library was all about strategies to build awareness and recruit members.

Monday’s meeting was held at the St. Louis Bread Company in The Loop. It began with members checking in on their progress since the first meeting of the tool library in March. At that meeting, the group established what the benefits of having a tool library in University City would be, stating that individuals or families, young or old, could save money and save space by sharing green tools for the community at a lower cost.

Alice Floros, who is helping spearhead the tool lending program, said the North Philadelphia Tool Library has been very supportive of launching a tool library in the St. Louis area. Since launching the University City Tool Library page on Facebook, the group has amassed “likes” from several groups including St. Louis Earth Day.

One of the first issues addressed was proposing a survey that would get contact information, the types of tools needed, feedback on the library, and ask about a membership fee.

Among the short-term goals discussed was raising awareness and building membership. The group talked about developing pamphlets or postcards to distribute at events such as Fair-UCity, which is happening on Memorial Day weekend, and the Rain Garden block party on May 15. That party would be from noon to 3pm, near I-270 and Delmar, on Oakbrook Dr.

A time frame for developing a survey for distribution would be pegged to the Rain Garden block party.

The group also talked about developing a tool lending policy, including eventualities such as item breakage.

A kick-off party was also discussed, possibly at the Non Park at the corner of Olive and Kingsland.

Long term goals discussed include partnering with a nonprofit, or becoming a nonprofit. Some of the groups that would be likely candidates to collaborate with are  Beyond HousingHabitat for Humanity, and Architecture and Art schools of Washington University.

If the group took the route of becoming a nonprofit, the cost to do so would be around $400 in Missouri, and would involve considerable paperwork.

The group talked about developing a goals statement, policy regarding membership fees, whether to charge to “check-out” tools individually.

The next scheduled meeting of the University Tool Library is April 25, at 6pm at the St. Louis Bread Company in The Loop.

For more information on the group and meeting times you can contact Alice Floros at the University City Tool Library Facebook page.


Task Force Puts Spotlight on Senior Needs

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 10, 2011

What sorts of services are available to senior citizens in University City?

That issue took center stage at Thursday night’s meeting of the Mayor’s Task  on Seniors and Youth.

Gladys Hicks of the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging, which provide services to seniors in four counties – St. Louis County, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson Counties –  said the two biggest issues confronting seniors are transportation and caregiving.

“Meals are the uppermost thing keeping seniors in their home,” Hicks said. She also said that Mid-East’s primary goal is to keep seniors independent in their communities for as long as possible.

“Agencies on Aging were intended to be in the community to serve as an unbiased go-to to look at senior needs and come up with community resources.”

Hicks expressed concern that things have become difficult because transportation has been reduced to U City’s Ochs Senior Center on 975 Pennsylvania. Currently, seniors get a life there on Mondays through Thursdays, leaving Friday, Saturday, and Sunday without transportation.

“It’s very rough telling seniors that the fifth day, a Friday, that you are going to be by yourself for three days in a row.”

Hicks said the cuts happened over five years ago. Another agency, the Senior Service Board was available for transportation until it became defunct.

Hicks also talked about funding. The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging receives money from the federal government, which is distributed based on the census numbers. Hicks said upwards of $200,000 could be lost due to the drop in population in University City in the 2010 census.

During her talk, Hicks also noted that University City relies heavily on transportation and meals on wheels programs. When asked about the support University City gives to Mid-East, Hicks said the city ranks very high in support, but it would be essential to the agency in “their thoughts, and budgets, to keep the seniors going.”

Mary Hart of the University City Senior Resource Team also spoke at the task force meeting on Thursday.

Hart is part of the U City Senior Resource Team, which meets once a month in U City. The team includes representatives from several  groups that deal with issues confronting mid-life and senior citizens, and serves as a resource.

Hart said there is going to be a Healthy Lifestyle and Senior Resource Expo on April 28, at Centennial Commons.

The task force also spoke about a survey that has been under development.  Questions and answers on the survey for both youths and seniors were discussed.

The group talked about how the survey will be distributed for both seniors and youth.  The group plans to do a senior survey sample at the Senior Resource Expo.

The next scheduled Task Force meeting is slated for May 5th in the EOC room (basement) of City Hall.

University City Tool-Lending Library in Planning Stage

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 29, 2011

There are tool lending libraries in twenty states including Missouri, which has two, and University City resident Alice Floros plans for U City to be number three.

The University City Tool Library held an informal meeting at the Meshuggah Café in the loop on Sunday to explain what a tool lending library is, and generate ideas to help launch the library in University City. Sunday’s meeting was a brainstorming session where the community was invited to suggest ideas on the location of the library, what tools should be in the library, and cost of membership.

A sample tool list presented at Sunday’s meeting included such items as a tape measure; hammer; plier set; utility knife set; extension cord; screwdriver set and and a cordless drill.

One of the first tool lending libraries in the U.S. was created in Berkeley, California in 1979. There are two in the San Francisco Bay Area, run by the Berkley and Oakland Public libraries. Tools are borrowed from a branch of the library system. A person can check out a book on home repair, and the tools necessary to complete projects in the book.

The U City tool lending group wants to be a community resource, where residents can check out tools ranging from home improvement and repair to gardening tools. In addition, the idea is to have these tools available so that members of the community can share a tool that one person may only use once, but is available for others to use. The target group for the tool library is students, the elderly, and apartment dwellers, in addition to homeowners.

Floros said that she is looking for people to make suggestions on what kinds of tools they start should start with. The group plans to have the library up and running soon.

Lending library volunteers plan to meet at Meshuggah Café every two weeks on Sundays from 4 to 5pm. For more information on the group and meeting times you can contact Alice Floros at theUniversity City Tool Library Facebook page.

Plan Commission Considers Two Proposals; Controversy Over Sunshine Law

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 24, 2011

The Plan Commission meeting on Wednesday night started with members considering two proposals regarding properties, and ended on a controversial tone.

The meeting started shortly after 7pm at City Hall, with voting members, Chairman Ben Halpert, Nova Felton, Paulette Carr, and Lisa Greening in attendance, along with city councilmember Stephen Kraft. The minutes from the previous three meetings were not approved, with a lack of quorum.

The first hearing was for a minor subdivision of land plat in the University Hills subdivision at 7286 Creveling Drive. Mike Manlin filed for a minor subdivision of the property to build an additional single-family dwelling at that address. Manlin purchased the property in early 2011. Manlin is renovating the current home located at that address.

Lisa Greening, one of the commission members questioned the status of a tree that is located on the northeast corner of the current property. Manlin stated that the tree would remain on the property, and that every possible effort would be made to maintain it.

Residents of the neighborhood stated their concerns, and two residents of the neighborhood registered their opposition to the plan. In the staff report for the proposal, a letter that was undersigned by trustees of the neighborhood association stated that the “existing yard of the 7286 would be materially reduced and would require the removal of the existing patio, fountain and gazebo.” The trustee’s letter also mentioned that the removal of those items would “detract from its long-term value.”

The commission voted to postpone a decision of the proposal until the April 27 meeting, pending a statement from residents of the University Hills subdivision.

The second hearing was a zoning map amendment to 8126 Olive Boulevard. The property was purchased by Zun Xing Li and his wife Li Hua Lu two years ago. The couple own the Lu Lu Restaurant at 8224 Olive. Their intent is to make the property mixed-use. Currently, the property is zoned commercial, and Zun Xing Li wants the property to be rezoned as planned-development mixed use. The staff report document stated that “the eastern part of the building will be renovated into a new restaurant and rental office. The western portion of the building will be utilized for residential use.”

Carr expressed concern about the proximity of the property to the stream that runs behind the building in a wooded area, which is part of the River Des Peres tributary system. The area is classified as being in a floodway. Carr stated that she would not be comfortable with residential property being located in a floodway, citing the ongoing Wilson Road buyout. Commission member Felton also expressed reservations about approving the proposal, noting that the property was in poor condition and that it took  Zun Xing Li 18 months to make repairs after a motorist crashed into the property.  Zun Xing Li responded that the trash and other litter around the property were because of its close proximity to a bus stop, which is located on the sidewalk in front of the property.

Carr reiterated her unease with the location of the property in relation to the floodway and wanted a survey done to establish whether the property was in a floodway. Greening made a motion to postpone approval on the proposal, and was seconded by Chairman Halpert, and the proposal would be heard at the next meeting.

The controversy started when the meeting continued into the other business session, and commission member Carr expressed irritation about the lack of response she has received from Joyce Pumm, the City Clerk.  Carr stated that she had submitted several requests for information under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, but had received no response.  Andrea Riganti, Director of Community Development stated that the Sunshine Law stipulates a three-day response, unless under extenuating circumstances.  Carr then stated that she would submit requests directly to City Manager Lehman Walker in the future.

Chairman Halpert adjourned the meeting at 8:45pm. The next meeting is scheduled for April 27.

Click here if you want to know more about Missouri’s Sunshine Law.


A Look Back at 100 Years of the University City Fire Department

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 23, 2011

The Historical Society of University City invited the community to the library on Tuesday night to commemorate 100 years of service of the University City Fire Department.

The Historical Society’s archivist Sue Rehkopf was the speaker. University City  Fire Chief Don Miner, as well as several firefighters were in attendance.

In the early days of University City, if a fire broke out in the city or surrounding areas, any able bodied man with a bucket and water would try to put the fire out. Rehkopf added that if the St. Louis Fire Department was able to respond, they would. “Lack of available water was always a problem,” she said.

While referencing a picture of Delmar and Skinker from 1901, Rehkopf said that the dirt roads that were prevalent in St. Louis County would slow down crews from the city, who utilized horse drawn steam wagons.

University City incorporated in 1906. “The first thing they did was to establish a police force,” Rehkopf said. The department was created to address the crime that University City was experiencing at the turn of the century.

“One of their jobs was to serve as the fire department.” Rehkopf noted that the department only had deputies of the University City Police Department and volunteers to tend to any fires that might break out.

In 1909, there was a major fire in the University Heights Number 1 subdivision, on Amherst. An overheating furnace in one house caught fire, and it spread to two other homes.

“This fire may have been the final impetus for E.G. Lewis to establish a fire department,” Rehkopf said.

The University City Fire Department was established in May of 1910, with Oscar Kortkamp as its first chief. Kortkamp had previously been with the City of St. Louis’ Fire Department, and was also on the fire squad for the World’s Fair. The fire chief’s salary in 1910 was $100 a month.

The department’s first major purchase was a 1910 Robinson Pumper for $8,395 dollars. Rehkopf said that University City was the first fire department in St. Louis County and possibly the metropolitan area with a motorized fire truck. The truck was able to shoot water 58 feet higher than the magazine building (now City Hall), which is 135 feet.

In 1910,  firefighting equipment cost; $0.75 for gloves, $5 dollars for boots, a leather helmet cost about $15, and a rubber coat, at a city authorized cost of $4.

In contrast, today’s UCFD turnout equipment is $220 for a helmet, $304 boots, and gloves are $75.

The hour-long presentation, which culminated in a social afterwards, chronicled the department’s history in decades from its founding to the present day, and the new chief Don Miner, who joined the department in January of 1980.

Once the presentation hit the 1970s era Miner said he recognized a lot of the people and equipment. “A lot of the trucks I worked on. It was good to see.”

When asked about the where the department is going at the beginning of its second century, Miner talked about the department remaining progressive in a time where the responsibilities of fire departments are ever-increasing.

“We don’t just put out fires anymore. We’re now responsible for emergency medical services.” He noted  other changes including the equipment, and new hazards, like extrication from electric vehicles which are now becoming common on roads. The biggest change, Miner said, was in training from when he started.

Pictures of the early days of the University City Fire Department are available from the U City Public Library’s Digital Collections athttp://history.ucpl.lib.mo.us/.


Mayor’s Task Force Examines Youth in the Loop

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 11, 2011

Thursday night’s meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Seniors & Youth focused primarily on the latter.

The focal point being youths in the Loop.

Concerns have centered on a small percentage of youths that disruptive — and how that gives The Loop a “negative perception by patrons.”

At a previous task force meeting, Patrick Liberto, owner of the Meshuggah Café, said he felt that youths have no place to go, with malls discouraging their patronage. The Loop is attractive, he said because there are clothing, music stores, and salons that  cater to younger people.

The task force asked Liberto if he had any recommendations, and he suggested getting kids involved in activities, such as theatre or sports.

Thursday’s guest speakers included Associate Professor of Social Work Dr. Jack Kirkland of Washington University and Jason Baucom of the Parks and Recreation Department.

“You really can’t stop young people from going or being where they want to be,” said Kirkland. He suggested the idea of “observing, rather than watching.” He said the task force could assign concerned citizens to observe youths, to serve as a deterrent for disruptive behavior.

Jen Jensen, one of the task force members suggested bringing back the neighborhood watch. Beverly Sporleder, one of the attendees, suggested the idea of having corners where youths could engage in creative activities, as well as community art schools.

The group also talked about the fact young people are not using the Centennial Commons. Jason Baucom mentioned that the Commons requires a resident or nonresident ID to use and that the costs vary.  He also added that the Commons has tried many approaches to get youths in, but concedes that it has been difficult.

The next task force meeting is scheduled for April 4th at 6:30 in the EOC Room of City Hall.

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch created the task force. The group’s objective is to examine “the needs of each group that are currently not being met or fulfilled by the existing assets available.”


University City Schools Superintendent Talks About the Good and the Bad

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | March 3, 2011

Wednesday Night at the McNair Administration Building, University City School District Superintendent Joylynn Wilson Pruitt gave parents a status report on district activities, ranging from school renovations to the status of the district accreditation. This was the second of two Conversations with the Superintendent this academic year.

“We are making an avid commitment to start each presentation on something positive, and share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly, and try to end again on a positive note.”

Pruitt noted that the district is fully accredited.

“Right now the district has 7 points. We have 7 of 14, we are still fully accredited. If our review were right now, we would be provisional.”

She also mentioned that the district has two finalists in the 2011 Merit Scholar Program, and two students that were named “Outstanding Participants” by the 2011 National Achievement Scholarship Program.

There are five goals that are outlined in the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan that the District reports to the state on monthly Pruitt said. They are academic achievement; highly qualified staff; facilities, support, and instructional resources; parent and community involvement; and governance and administration. On each of these goals, Pruitt outlined progress and initiatives the District was working on.

As part of the Centennial Year celebration, Pruitt mentioned that there will be a Community Schools Fair at Brittany Woods on April 29, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. On April 30, the Barbara C. Jordan Elementary ribbon cutting will take place. Pershing Elementary Groundbreaking is scheduled for May 13.

Pruitt also gave an update on the renovations throughout the District.  As part of her presentation, pictures of construction at Barbara C. Jordan were shown to the about 30 attendees.


State Rep. Ellinger Hosts Payday Loan Reform Hearing in University City

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | February 25, 2011

More than 70 people showed up at a town hall meeting held at Centennial Commons Thursday night organized by Missouri State Representative Rory Ellinger (D-72 University City) and State Representative Mary Wynne Still (D-25 Columbia) to discuss payday loan abuses in Missouri. Representative Still has a bill in the Missouri House concerning predatory lending.

Figures from the Missouri Division of Finance say that the Average Percentage Rate, or APR of payday lenders in Missouri is on average 444%, and that that the maximum allowable rate in Missouri is 1,950%, the highest in the nation. Surrounding states do not allow for renewals, but Missouri permits loan renewals up to six times. There are over 1066 lenders in the state, with four operating within University City limits.

The Department of Community Development of University City provided a map to attendees, which identifies the short-term loan establishments in the City. They include ACE Cash Express at 8609; 7956 Olive Boulevard, Missouri Title Loans at 6985 Olive Blvd.; Advance America and Cash Advance in the University City Square shopping development near Schnucks at 6902 Olive Blvd.

Rep. Still noted that payday loans are unsecured loans. Because people can renew their loans in Missouri, some use renewals to pay back the original loan. Still also said that the average loan amount in Missouri is $300.”This is how they end up in this cycle of debt,” she said.

Rep. Still has written legislation that will cap interest rates on payday loans in Missouri to 36%.  House Bill 132, which is awaiting committee assignment, is modeled after former US Senator Jim Talent’s (R-MO), which was designed to regulate payday lenders, who commonly target military families. Rep. Ellinger is among 39 co-sponsors of the bill.

“Payday loans are small loans up to 500 dollars, with a very high interest rate. They have a short payback period, usually 2 weeks. Missouri has some of the weakest laws in the country,” Still said in her opening remarks.

“The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (or FDIC) recommends an APR of 36% on payday loans” Still added.

Darryl Luster of the St. Louis Community Credit Union talked about his personal experiences dealing with payday lenders. He offered information on what the credit union has in place as an alternative to payday loan lenders. Luster said that St. Louis Community Credit Union offers a Payday Saver Loan, with an interest rate of 25%, a repayment term of 12 months, and application fee. They compare it to a traditional payday loan with an interest rate of up to 400%, a repayment term of 2 to 4 weeks, and application fee that is 15% of the loan.

Ellinger and Still are encouraging feedback on House Bill 132, and can be contacted through their respective offices. Additional information can be obtained at the Missouri House Of Representatives Website at house.mo.gov. You can track House Bill 132 here.

UCHS Classmates, Community Pay Tribute to Deputy Chief Ernest Green

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | December 27, 2010

Friends, classmates and community members paid tribute to the late Ernest Green, the Deputy Police Chief of the University City Police Department Sunday night at City Hall.

Green, 46, died on December 20 from brain cancer.

The class motto of the University City High School class of 1982 was “unforgettable” and that was the overriding theme at last night’s memorial celebration, which eulogized Green’s life and effect on the community.

About 60 people turned up for the gathering, which was filled with reminiscent memories, songs and humor.

Tracy Shields and class president Gary Boyd set up the event, which was organized through the Class of 1982 Reunion Committee.

In his opening remarks, Boyd said the event was a celebration of Green’s life. He also gave thanks to Major Green’s wife of 18 years Alicia Green, who was present last night to allow the community to pay tribute.

Shields and other classmates contributed songs to pay homage, including some familiar songs including “This little light of mine” to close the proceedings.

University City Police Chief Colonel Charles Adams made a statement and members of UCPD paid their respects.

“Ernest and I grew up together, said Carlos Mayfield, a pastor and longtime friend of Green.

“I’ve known him since I was 4 years old. We used to hold hands going to preschool together,” said Mayfield.

Mayfield said the memorial celebration was “awesome.”

“I had an opportunity to visit with Earnest before he passed, and I think he would be pleased to know that he gave so much, and that this demonstration gave back to him,” Mayfield said. “It’s a blessing.”

A fund has been set up to help support Green’s two sons. Donations can be made to: In Care of Ernest Green, P.O. Box 300525, St. Louis, MO 63130.