Mayor's Town Hall Meeting
The following are questions submitted for the Mayor's Town Hall Meeting and responses from City Representatives.
Q1 - What is the working relationship between the Mayor and the Police Chief when he is required to report to the City Manager? How does this impact activities related to the consent decree?
***All senior staff are responsive to inquires and input from both the Mayor and Council Members. The City Charter (Sec. 3.4.3) stipulates that the Mayor and Council are not to take part in the operation or management of the City.
Q2 - What is the status of the Ferguson Rebranding Study? If it has been abandoned, how much money did the city spend on the study? If the city adopts a new logo and slogan, how much money has the city allocated for new signage, new stationary, redoing the city website, repainting city vehicles, etc.?
**The City Council entered into agreement for a Rebranding Study at the cost of $46,480. This Study was unfortunately paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, recently the Council has agreed to conduct a final review of the study results to prepare for implementation. It is likely that study results would prompt updates to advertising mechanisms, however, as we are unable to determine what updates are required until the study results are final, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic impact, we have been unable to dedicate specific funding. This will be reconsidered in upcoming budget cycles.
Q3 - 1) From personal experience, and listening to a few of my neighbors, Public Works is unresponsive. How do citizens reach Public Works with concerns and know that they are being heard? Communication from City Hall seems to be lacking all around. Please address what is being done to improve this situation. 2) Citizens recently mowed the grass at Jeske Park because it was too long and unsightly. This is not a sustainable way to maintain city parks. What is being done to address this lack of maintenance? And, on a related note, why are we contemplating a new park when we aren't maintaining the ones we have? Please address what is being done to insure routine maintenance is being done.
**Public Works Services has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 resulting in chronic understaffing. In Addition, this department has experienced 100% turnover in the last 20 months. With the transfer of one of our most capable and experienced employees to Office Manager of this group, we believe we are on the right road to creating a more responsive department. Unfortunately, as a budget cutting act, we no longer use "See-Click-Fix." To contact PW Services, please call the main number, 314-521-7721, and ask for Public Works Services. On average, there are only two clerks on duty at any given time. If you go to voice mail, please leave a message. You will receive a call back within 24 hours.
**Due to current budget restraints Public Works was limited to the number of PT/ Seasonal staff that were hired for a typical summer season. However, over the past 3 weeks new management has developed a comprehensive maintenance plan to address mowing needs city wide. Public Works plans to modify this plan moving forward as needs and staffing changes. It is the hope of Public Works and the City to hire the needed PT/ seasonal help this spring and work with the existing maintenance plan to ensure all parks and city maintained areas are properly managed. In regards to the "new park" the property that is in question is already owned by the City. It is currently mowed and maintained in our regular schedule and therefor will not add any additional work to the existing maintenance plan.
Q4 - How many pending lawsuits are there against Ferguson? What is the cost of the lawsuits and is the insurance company settling the cases?
**Upon the advice of counsel, the City does not discuss matters regarding ongoing litigation.
Q5 - What are the duties of the Mayor Pro-Tem? What does the Charter State about the Mayor Pro-Tem?
**Article II, Section 3.7 of the City Charter states that the Mayor Pro Tempore acts in the absence of the Mayor. There are no other specifications outlined.
Q6 - The economic sales tax was passed in 2016 why is it that the Board has not been established?
**Ordinance #2016-3629 adopted November 8, 2016 established the EDST Commission. However, the positions outlined have not been filled.
Q7 - What's going on with Prop-P taxes that the police officers were not getting raises? How many police officers does Ferguson have now?
**Annually, the City receives around $1 million in Prop P funds whose purpose is to partially fund Public Safety within the City. Annually the City budgets about $7 million for public safety (Police and Fire). Since the institution of Prop-P, the city has increased spending on Public Safety (PD and FD) by more than $1 million. Regarding raises for Police - the police union was in the process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. That agreement was ratified in July of 2019. Wage rate increases were given to police once that agreement was signed. Those raises were retroactive to the first of the fiscal year.
**The authorized strength of the Police Department is 45 sworn officers. Currently, there are about 30 - 32 sworn officers on the payroll.
Q8 - What is the status of the Build Grant?
**The Build Grant was not awarded for the West Florissant Streetscape project.
Q9 - What are the FNIP (Ferguson Neighborhood Improvement Program) Bi-Laws? How can citizens get a copy of Bi-laws? What is the balance of funds in FNIP Treasure Account? What is the main purpose of FNIP and how can citizens qualify for funds?
**The Ferguson Neighborhood Improvement Program By-Laws serve as the governing rules for the Board as it operates as a non-profit organization, separate from the City. Citizens can obtain a copy of the FNIP By-Laws by contacting the Community Development Coordinator, Bailey Mitchell by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 314-521-7721 ex. 2149. FNIP has multiple investment accounts and their finances are reviewed quarterly during the regularly scheduled Board meetings. FNIP does not receive any tax dollars from the city or any other governmental entity and they operate solely on the interest they make from investment accounts. The public can access this information on the City website (fergusoncity.com) via the Agenda Center when the quarterly financial statements are to be reviewed at the Board meetings; or Citizens can always contact the Community Development Coordinator for this information.
**The purpose of the FNIP is to improve the quality of life and foster a spirit of community among the residents of Ferguson. FNIP fulfills its mission by offering programs and services to increase the pride, distinction and livability of its neighborhoods, and to improve the appearance and value of individual homes. To learn about ways you can qualify for funds, view the FNIP webpage on the City website or contact the Community Development Coordinator.
Q10 - 1. What can be done to cut down the excessive speeding on Elizabeth? People are passing those that are doing the speed limit. Elizabeth is not a passing zone. Chambers is also a huge issue.... 2. What and by when will be done with the dilapidated houses?
**We try to dedicate time every shift (2 shifts a day) to our traffic safety problem areas, Elizabeth Ave is one of those areas. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of our call volume and what issues arise throughout the shift. Some days we are able to do this, others we are not. As we are able to add more officers, we can better address all the speeding complaints we receive throughout the city.
**Fighting distressed housing in the city has been a chronic problem for many years. Many of these properties are not worth the liens and taxes assessed them. Because of the fine structure and judicial process the courts are a tedious process. That said, we can and are doing two things. First, we have an active demolition program. We have economic development funds to support demolition of about 10 homes per year. Second, we are reintroducing our property restoration program. Both of these programs rely on St. Louis County's permitting municipalities to acquire properties for the value of the transfer fee.
Q11 - One of my concerns is regarding absentee landlords and nuisance tenants in the rental properties on my street (Shirley Ave). I am one of about 4 owner occupied residences on my street. Most of the rentals are “managed” by an unknown absentee landlord/manager. Three of the properties across from me have had the police called on them numerous times for domestic disturbances (including involving weapons and threats of violence). When police are called, IF they come to investigate, they are only there for maybe 5 minutes and then gone. One property has multiple “visitors” pull in to the driveway at all hours of the night, someone brings them something from the house and then they are gone - some of the cars come during the day. Since I have smelled pot emanating from some of the vehicles during the day, I suspect drug activity. My next door neighbor has submitted numerous security camera videos of these type incidents to the police chief without any response. She has also submitted videos of an individual (male) who regularly parks in front of our homes and goes up and down the street and into driveways checking car doors. Again, no response. (A bait car would be helpful).And we have not seen a patrol car come through in quite some time - months. We do not feel safe in our own homes at this point - and especially not if we have to go out/return home after dark. Where are our police? 2. And what can be done to address not only unkept properties but also these “nuisance tenants” and absentee landlords?
**I did converse with your neighbor back in April about the issues over there and provided our reporting email address for any video footage that could assist us in addressing any criminal activity in that area. I do not receive the emails directly from the reporting email address, the emails go to the patrol supervisors so they can direct their officers on what actions need to be taken. I will look into what information has been shared with us. Additionally, when I spoke with your neighbor, I inquired if there was a specific time of day issues were more prevalent, so we had a better idea of when to try and target the area at that time, but I was told there was no particular time. I have added this location to our computer system pass on log requesting extra patrols. In addition, please call us immediately if you witness any illegal activity going on, you can do so anonymously. I understand your desire to see more officers patrolling your street, I wish we had more officers to put out on the streets. We are working to increase our staffing so we can have better visibility throughout the city.
**There should be no "absentee landlords." The primary contact for every rental property is required to live within 25 miles of Ferguson. Our nuisance processes are slow by design. Because we are required to provide property owners with "due process." It takes vigilance on the part of owner occupied residential properties to continuously complain. When you get tired of calling to report nuisance behavior, please call again. With a chronic pattern of complaints and citations, we can change a landlords status to provisional which limits their ability to rent.
Q12 - I would like to know what your plans are for the SPEEDERS that run from New Florissant to West Florissant starting at 5am. I live on Chambers Rd at Ballman Ave. I have had 2 vehicles torn up by speeders. I'm afraid that it will be a fatal accident (God forbid) out here one day. We've had numerous accidents but not fatal.
**We try to dedicate time every shift (2 shifts a day) to our traffic safety problem areas, Chambers Rd is one of those areas. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of our call volume and what issues arise throughout the shift. Some days we are able to do this, others we are not. As we are able to add more officers, we can better address all the speeding complaints we receive throughout the city.
**As I indicated a number of times, PD staffing is one of our greatest challenges. This is a nationwide problem not solely related to Ferguson. In FY2015, actual and budgeted Sworn Officer (SO) strength was 54 persons. Today's budget is 45 and actual count is 30 - 32. In recent years, rarely has SO headcount exceeded 35.
Q13 - Congratulations on your historic Mayoral win! I have no doubt that Ferguson will head in the right direction under your leadership. I have many concerns regarding Montrey's Cigar Lounge. My husband, kids and Myself live 3 houses away from the establishment. We are constantly bombarded by loud music and motorcycles. Sometimes my children are not allowed to play outside because the music from Montrey's contains loud vulgarity and cussing. This loud and vulgar music can be heard throughout my house most evenings and nights. Montrey's has an outdoor patio. This patio has become a haven for unmasked, loud partying that takes place after business hours and during Covid-19 restrictions. Screaming, yelling and cussing can easily be heard inside of my home (with doors and windows closed). We no longer open the windows in our home past 5pm due to the loud patrons and music. Illegal parking takes place daily. A fire truck or ambulance could not drive down our street in the evening/night if there were an emergency. We have called Ferguson Police regarding the illegal parking but nothing has been addressed. Motorcycles rev their engines all night and evening. Again, the loud engines can be heard inside of my home (with doors and windows closed). We have called the police about this establishment and walked down to the establishment personally. We still receive no cooperation or consideration. My Family and the surrounding neighbors of Montrey's Cigar Lounge hope that you can help us.
**This question is similar to another and thus, the response is repeated. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, this is the first that this issue has been brought up to me. I looked in our computer system and see that we have responded to 5 noise complaints at the location so far this year. However I do not know if we spoke with management about the complaint or just spoke with patrons in the parking lot. After receiving this information we went and spoke with the business. They are in the process of posting "no parking" signs in designated areas to address the parking problems. They are also working on having patrons clear the lot prior to staff leaving at the close of business. We will continue to monitor this and please let us know if problems continue. In addition, we will discuss this matter with the business owner.
Q14 - I have been a resident of Ferguson City for 33 years during this time I have seen a lot of changes in the community. A problem I am concerned about is speeding down Ellison Dr. all times of the day and night coming from the Canfield Green Apartment complex. My question is: Can we get speed bumps installed to slow speeding drivers coming down our street to protect the children and the residents on Ellison Dr. from tragedy?
**There are several factors that have to be taken into account to whether speed bumps or speed tables can be installed on a particular street. We are drafting a neighborhood traffic calming program that would guide how this issue is addressed throughout the city because the problem is prevalent throughout the city. Ellision Dr. is one the locations that we have received complaints on recently and we have logged Ellison in our system for increased patrols due to speeders.
Q15 - First and foremost Ms. Jones, congratulations on your election to mayor of the City of Ferguson. I'm sure that your tenure will bring much prosperity to the city and the community at large. My concern involves a business within the city limits located at 401 S. Florissant Rd. Montrey's Cigar Lounge. It is a good business for the city as I'm sure it brings a great deal of tax revenue as well as visitors from out of the city to see our beautiful downtown area. However, my neighbors and I have routinely been disturbed by loud music and illegal parking in the area and the source is undoubtedly Montrey's. Section 44-512 of Ferguson's municipal code prohibits parking on the south side of Randolph Ave. between the streets of S. Florissant Rd. and Georgia Ave. It also prohibits parking on the north side of Randolph Ave. from S. Florissant Rd. westward 150 feet. The reasons for this are certainly for the safety of the motoring public and the public safety of residents in the area. On several occasions (Sunday 9-20-2020 notwithstanding) there have been vehicles parked on both sides of the street. A fire truck would have no hope of negotiating such narrow confines when this occurs. Especially when they may be expediting to a potential emergency. My neighbors and I have called on several occasions, but the problem never improves and we grow weary of calling repeatedly. There is plenty of parking in the area; the Edward Jones lot is used and there is a large city owned lot across the street and adjacent to Red's Barbecue. It has not been as bad this year with the COVID-19 restrictions placed upon drinking establishments, but that brings me to my next point. As I'm sure you are already aware, St. Louis County enacted new restrictions that were effective July 31st at 5 p.m. Among those restrictions were that bars were to close at 10 p.m. I believe that Montrey's in complying with the restrictions so my gripe does not accuse them of wrongdoing as far as that goes. But there are several nights where patrons are sitting on the patio making noise until 11 p.m. or later. The most recent that comes to memory is this past Friday the 18th. While the building proper seemed to close at 10 p.m. as directed, allowing patrons to remain on their premises after that time seems to be in conflict with the directive. And, when COVID-19 restrictions were not in place, there would be several times that patrons would remain on the patio after 1 a.m. on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays while playing loud music (in violation of Section 29-82 and 29-92). Again, my neighbors and I grow weary of calling so often and feeling like a bother. But, we cannot even open our windows during this time of year when it is the perfect weather to do so because we can still hear loud music even with our windows closed. With them open it is unbearable. There are also multiple instances of individuals on motorcycles that rev the motorcycles several times before leaving the parking lot which is very loud. But, I would bet that those same riders idle into their own neighborhood when returning home. We understand that the police do have many more important and urgent things to do as well. Which is another reason we do not like to call so often. So, maybe the business could help "police" itself. I have been to establishments in Soulard and Florissant that have signs urging their patrons to remember that they are in a residential area and to please respect the folks living in private residences nearby. I thank you for your attention to this letter and look forward to many prosperous years for the City of Ferguson under your leadership.
**Thank you for bringing this to my attention, this is the first that this issue has been brought up to me. I looked in our computer system and see that we have responded to 5 noise complaints at the location so far this year. However I do not know if we spoke with management about the complaint or just spoke with patrons in the parking lot. After receiving this information we went and spoke with the business. They are in the process of posting "no parking" signs in designated areas to address the parking problems. They are also working on having patrons clear the lot prior to staff leaving at the close of business. We will continue to monitor this and please let us know if problems continue. In addition, we will discuss this matter with the business owner.
Q16 - Thank you for allowing questions and hopefully can address my concerns. I live near a side of Dellwood that had there streets paved with handicap ramps and nice street signs that add so much to the visual of their community. I don't understand why Ferguson has not followed the same lead rather than patching the streets multiple times a year which I'm sure adds up. Any plans in the future to improve the infrastructure? Also me subdivision has an inspector and but it seems the vacant properties are not monitored and the grass grows 2ft or more until falls over. Just a concern. There are also cars uncovered with no tags or on badly damage on jacks that need to be covered. There is a trash issue for business on Halls Ferry, West Florissant and along Pershall where those businesses should be required to maintain the surrounding property just as a business in Ferguson pitching in. I pick up trash where I see it No more liquor stores or beauty supplier. Just a suggestion Speed bumps like Dellwood has installed. I do not my grandson ride his bike because of cars cutting corners speeding. Lastly I am excited to see the future of Ferguson removing the boards to restore the authenticity of the city .We need to get back on the map with a positive image again.
**The City of Dellwood passed a General Obligation Bond of $7 million for street replacement for a City with 5,000 residents. For the City of Ferguson this is equivalent to a $28 million General Obligation Bond for a period of 20 years with an annual debt service of about $2 million and an annual addition property tax bill of about $2,000 for the "average" $100,000 market value Ferguson home. The last GOB passed by the voters of Ferguson was for $8 million for the Firehouse #1 Replacement. In the last three years, the City residents have not shown a willingness to increase their tax burden. Therefore, the City is required to rely on Surface Transportation Program Grants for street replacement, and then patching and spot slab replacement with City Capital Improvement funds.
**Regarding tall grass - When grass grows over the height allowed under our code, then the homeowner has to be notified and given the opportunity to correct the issue on their own, after that, the City is then required to cite the homeowner and direct a third party to mow the lawn. The City spends about $40,000 per year in nuisance abatement, most of which is uncollectible. Unfortunately, this process takes time, and there are many instances where the grass grows quite high before it is mowed. The inspectors do their best to get to all areas of the City, but due to a previous reduction in staff, there are only 3 code enforcement officers currently with the City. We are in the process of hiring a 4th inspector, and anticipate that this will help to alleviate some of the extremely high grass and the other nuisance violations throughout the City.
**Please contact the PD and provide the subdivision information so we can add it to our patrol pass on log for extra patrols.
Q17 - 1. What, if any, are the plan's to stop car break ins, sheds being broken into, homes being broke into? 2. A plan needs to implemented to stop speeding....Hartnett is a speedway and we are lucky someone has not been killed. Do we wait until there is a death to do something about the issue? 3. What plans are being implemented for public works to clean up streets that have trash on the ground, overflowing trash containers, street sweepers, bug machines? Locally, on our street, us neighbors pick up trash thrown on our street & that is perfectly fine. But what about large intersections & main thorough fares that look ignored & run down. 4. I appreciate the feedback from Chief Armstrong when crime issues happen. Will this continue or is this just temporary communication due to COVID restrictions with counsel meetings?
**The bulk of the car break ins and shed break ins are due to vehicles and sheds being left unlocked or unsecure. We need everyone to be vigilant in reducing the opportunities that these individuals have to commit these crimes. We try to narrow down the time frame of when the sheds, cars and homes are being entered so we can focus on specific windows to target those areas that are impacted by these crimes. Once we are able to get more officers on the street and more investigators in the detective bureau, we will have a bigger impact on these issues.
**Hartnett will be added to our patrol pass on log for extra patrols related to speeders.
**Due to current budget constraints Public Works was limited to the number of PT/ Seasonal staff that were hired for a typical summer season. The Department is also down 2 typical FT positions and, as is their right, a number of employees took advantage of eFMLA further reducing work resources. During the COVID-19 pandemic several employees were forced to take Federal paid leave for a variety of reasons causing the department to be extremely understaffed throughout the past 6-7 months. The city of Ferguson does own a street sweeper, however, when the department is struggling to keep up with mowing, trash, street repairs, building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, and other routine duties it is hard to justify placing an individual on the street sweeper for any extended period of time. The Public Works department has implemented a comprehensive maintenance plan and will be filling multiple positions over the next few months to ensure the proper care of city property, thoroughfares, and facilities.
**An update from the Police Chief is scheduled to be presented during at least one Council meeting a month; typically the first meeting of the month. This is set for an undetermined amount of time.