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New mayor sworn in, council member vacates seat

There were two notable absences at Tuesday night’s Park Hills City Council meeting — Councilman Steve Sutton, who was re-elected to his seat in the election last week, and City Administrator Matt Whitwell, who resigned from his position late last week.

The swearing-in ceremony took place toward the end of the meeting during a brief recess. New Mayor Daniel Naucke, Councilman John Clark, who had recently been appointed to replace the late Larry Kelly, along with incumbents Larry LaChance and Tom Reed, were sworn into office by City Clerk Terri Richardson. Kelly died earlier this year. 

Prior to reconvening the meeting, Richardson, Naucke and City Attorney Ed Pultz conferred briefly, followed by a statement from Pultz regarding Sutton’s absence from the meeting and failure to be sworn in.

“Mayor, I would like to announce that in light of the fact that Mr. Sutton did not show up to be sworn in,” he said, “by the statutes of the State of Missouri, he has vacated his position and right to be on the city council for the coming term. So he will not be on the council and I think it would be appropriate in due course for you to make a recommendation to the council for someone to fill that spot.”

Naucke responded by saying he will consider the matter and make a recommendation at the next meeting, adding that he would welcome any suggestions from council members. Sutton was charged last month with drug trafficking. 

At the beginning of the meeting, a public hearing was held regarding a request by property owner Nicholas Gibson. Numerous residents spoke up in opposition to the rezoning request, each telling the council that the construction of a large apartment building in their neighborhood in the Federal Park area of the city would negatively impact them, their families and the neighborhood as a whole, including increasing traffic and bringing in too many people to an otherwise quiet environment.  

Gibson, a resident of Farmington, took his turn to speak, saying that traffic through the neighborhood would not change due to the location of the planned building. Councilwoman Sara Cruse asked him how many units he had planned to build and he responded that the structure, if rezoning was granted, would be comprised of 80 units.

After all concerned parties had an opportunity to speak, Councilman Adam Bowers made a motion to continue the matter so that council members could have more time to consider the matter and for Gibson to possibly talk about his plans with the affected residents. The remaining council members agreed.

Next up, St. Francois County 911 Communications Director Alan Wells gave a report on the progress of the county’s new joint communications center located in Park Hills.

The original 2,200 square feet 911 center was built in 1992 and opened in May of 1993. Since that time, the county’s population has grown significantly and the old center has been outpaced by current technology. Wells said once the new addition is completed, it will be the new home for the 911 center, while renovation of the existing facility (phase two), will be used as the Emergency Operating Center (EOC).

Wells described numerous planned features of the new 911 system and communications center, including updated technology, training for staff and the building itself, displaying for public viewing the architectural drawings he brought along with him. He said the original 911 system was based on a landline system, but now that the world has gone wireless, it’s vital to stay up-to-date with modern technology.

Wells explained that because the center is located within Park Hills, it doesn’t just belong to the county.

“This EOC is yours,” he said. “It is in your city limits, so if you have a disaster situation, this is where your command staff will respond to work that incident. You don’t have to have your own EOC. This is your EOC. It will service you and every city in our county.”

Park Hills resident Theresa Naucke had also requested to speak at the meeting. She cut her presentation short, however, saying that because Whitwell had resigned, what she had planned to say was now irrelevant.

During the general council discussion, Councilman Tom Reed asked for an update on the Main Street repaving project. Economic Developer Norm Lucas spoke up and said that the contractor is ready to begin the project but is waiting for overnight temperatures to remain over 50 degrees before commencing.

Cruse shared with the council some concerns of one of her constituents regarding excessive noise in his neighborhood. She said he has had ongoing problems with a neighbor who plays music very loudly every weekend into the early hours of the morning and that police have not satisfactorily handled the problem.

Cruse commented that she and her family have also been bothered by the loud music along with other nearby residents. She asked that the police chief be contacted to discuss the matter with the council.  

Cruse also explained some specifics surrounding the council vote last Friday regarding Whitwell’s resignation. She wanted to clarify that the vote was not to approve or oppose his resignation per se, but to simply approve or deny the terms of Whitwell’s resignation. Cruse said the terms of his resignation are public record and can be requested by residents for viewing at city hall.

Also during the meeting, council members re-elected Cruse to serve as president pro tem and voted to approve the appointment of Councilman Charles Politte to serve as council representative on the city’s planning and zoning commission. The new mayor was appointed to serve as an ex-officio member of the Park Hills–Leadington Chamber of Commerce.

For the final item of business, the council approved the delinquent tax list as per RSMo 94.170.

Prior to adjourning, Naucke offered a few comments as new mayor. 

“I think we’ve got a real good council,” he said. “I hope we’re together to move the city forward … I think that we’ve got a lot of problems, but I think the city council can work together and make it work … We’re all in this together and we have to move this city forward. And we’ll do it within the guidelines of this (city) attorney. Whatever he says, that’s what we need to do.”

Regarding the hiring of a new city administrator, Naucke said he would discuss the matter with the city council after he had some time to work with them and begin to make plans for the city’s future.  

After being sworn in as Park Hills' new mayor, Daniel Naucke, center, confers with City Clerk Terri Richardson and City Attorney Ed Pultz prior to a statement from Pultz regarding newly re-elected Councilman Steve Sutton’s absence from the meeting and failure to be sworn in. Per state statute, Sutton effectively vacated his seat by not showing up to be sworn in. 

After being sworn in as Park Hills’ new mayor, Daniel Naucke, center, confers with City Clerk Terri Richardson and City Attorney Ed Pultz prior to a statement from Pultz regarding newly re-elected Councilman Steve Sutton’s absence from the meeting and failure to be sworn in. Per state statute, Sutton effectively vacated his seat by not showing up to be sworn in. 

New Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke, third from left, incumbent councilmen Larry LaChance, far left, and Tom Reed, along with Councilman John Clark, far right, who had recently been appointed to replace the late Councilman Larry Kelly, are sworn into office by City Clerk Terri Richardson during the city meeting Tuesday. 

New Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke, third from left, incumbent councilmen Larry LaChance, far left, and Tom Reed, along with Councilman John Clark, far right, who had recently been appointed to replace the late Councilman Larry Kelly, are sworn into office by City Clerk Terri Richardson during the city meeting Tuesday. 

New Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke reconvenes Tuesday night's city council meeting after a short recess to be sworn in. Naucke was sworn in along with councilmen Larry LaChance, Tom Reed and John Clark. Also pictured is City Attorney Ed Pultz.

New Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke reconvenes Tuesday night’s city council meeting after a short recess to be sworn in. Naucke was sworn in along with councilmen Larry LaChance, Tom Reed and John Clark. Also pictured is City Attorney Ed Pultz.

Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or apatterson@dailyjournalonline.com.

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