Maplewood residents attend city’s first town hall meeting; city facing tight budget

Approximately 50 residents got involved in their city government at Maplewood’s first ever town hall meeting Tuesday night in the council chambers. It was organized to bring out residents’ concerns on topics such as traffic and parking, housing, public safety and parks.

Acting city manager, Anthony Traxler, started the meeting by reviewing some highlights.

  • Former city manager, Marty Corcoran, retired in Sept. after 36 years with the city. A new one is expected to be hired in three to six months.
  • Two new police officers have been hired, and Kathy Condon-Boettcher has replaced longtime director Terry Donnelly as the library head.
  • A new street sweeper and a fire department pumper truck and are coming.
  • The city’s tenth park opened this year — the skate park, next to the pool.
  • People want to live here. Eight new homes, including renovations and new construction have been built or are planned.
  • An apartment building at 7178 Manchester has been renovated and is at 100% occupancy.
  • The aquatic center is adding a splash pad.
  • A citywide traffic study, and citizen and business surveys are planned.

Traxler said several times that this year’s budget is tight. He said later in the meeting it’s partly because of three reasons: 1) The last significant increase in sales tax revenue was in 2011-2012. The current 2019 sales tax collections are less than they were as long ago as 2012. He said online sales are to blame. 2) The annual telephone gross receipts taxes since 2011 are down 52%, or $298,994. The loss of land line phones is the reason. 3) The collection of traffic fines since 2011 is down 75%, or $748,595. He said people just aren’t paying their fines.

These three items account for a loss of about $1 million in a $9 million budget.

He also said 75% of the budget goes to staff salaries, and of course the city doesn’t want to lay anyone off. He also said some items needed by the fire and police departments are very expensive: $185,000 for a self-contained breathing apparatus, $70,000 for cardiac monitors and $100,000 for portable mobile radios, for example.

Later in the meeting the residents were asked to go to different parts of the room and put their questions and suggestions on sticky notes on boards with the topics: Traffic and Parking, Public Safety, Housing, Parks and Recreation, Senior Advisory Board, and Other Questions and Concerns. The council members reviewed the responses later in the meeting. The city plans to post these comments on its website.

Mayor Barry Greenberg said the Senior Advisory Board is looking for volunteers, saying it’s hard to age in place in Maplewood in the older houses, many that don’t have first floor bathrooms. Also there are no assisted living facilities.

After the town hall the council held a regular meeting where council members took the first votes to approve placing a stop sign on southbound Sutton Boulevard at the Marietta Avenue intersection. A resident and more than one council member spoke of recent accidents or near-accidents at the corner. The final vote is planned for the next meeting.

The final vote was taken to approve a bill to add a 72-hour parking restriction on the Marietta parking lot. After the meeting Traxler said the reason for the bill is to give the city a way to keep vehicles (possibly broken down) from being parked there for months.

Mayor Barry Greenberg (left) and council members review responses to the various topics.

Council members Eleanor Pardini, Jenny Schmidt, Karen Wood, Ray Crader and Sandi Phillips (left to right) review responses.

At left, council member Shawn Faulkingham talks with Maplewood Richmond Heights school board member Nikylan Knapper during the breakout period of the meeting.

Some suggestions posted to the ‘Other’ poster board.

3 thoughts on “Maplewood residents attend city’s first town hall meeting; city facing tight budget

  1. When it was mentioned that people just don’t pay their fines for their infractions I have to wonder what is being done about that? If you have caught me speeding, you know my information including my name, my address, the type of car I was in, and a whole host of other stuff. I guess if the fine is $25 it may not be worth the time and money it takes to get that collected but it does seem like that fine should be paid. i am sure the city does not want to look like a bully but why are we not going after those fines? They may be but the article does not make it sound like it is.

    As for parking meters I am not sure how long it would take to offset the cost of each meter, someone to collect the coins and figure out the credit card user’s amount. Plus you now have to have someone who walks the beat a couple of times a day to catch those who don’t pay. And anyone with much knowledge of the area would know of all the free parking that is available in the downtown area. I also think that most businesses who are not actually getting any money from the meters would prefer that their patrons are not hassled and aggravated because they did not put in enough money in the meter to enjoy their meal that lasted past when their meter expired.

  2. Revenue suggestion: fees for the summer concerts. Also you could meter the parking on Manchester in downtown Maplewood. Raise the pet registration fee. And do a study for fees for recreational facilities & programs. St. Louis County did that in the late 1990’s and found that it helped them to do a number of adjustments.

    • Anne: I agree that finding alternative sources of income is prudent and I suspect the City is considering that, especially reviewing fees that might be below standards. Some of what you suggested is worth looking at, but I want to respond to two of your ideas:
      – Summer Concerts: The concert series is a project of the Chamber not the City. Plus, I am not aware of any municipality that charges for concerts, so this should be out of the question (not to mention the logistics and costs associated with charging for an outdoor event that has open access). And the money generated from four concerts would be minimal in the scheme of things.
      – Parking Meters: This has been discussed a number of times over the years among different groups. I suspect that there might be a time in the future when charging for parking in the core downtown district (starting on Manchester) might make sense and we’re probably closer to this eventuality than in the past. However, the prevailing opinion thus far has been that not having metered parking is a competitive advantage for Maplewood’s businesses. Also, not having meters generates goodwill (kind of like how St. Louis doesn’t charge for entrance to the zoo and museums). I am not saying that patrons would not come to our businesses or restaurants if we had meters, but is not common in similar parts of the County and that might not be the way we want to distinguish ourselves at this time, so we should avoid it if we can. The new kiosk system the City is instituting, that accepts cash and credit cards and can be remotely managed with an app, makes the concept more user-friendly, so meters might be becoming less of an annoyance to St. Louisans. City neighborhoods, like the Central West End, South Grand and the Grove have meters, but County areas near Maplewood, like downtown Webster Groves and Kirkwood do not, though the Loop does (in both its County and City sections), as does Clayton, which is a special case, due to the plethora of government and private offices.