The Bonne Terre City Council during last week's meeting included further discussion on a $3.5 million stormwater remediation project presented in June, as well as the removal of a state court fee the Missouri Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last month.
A resident also asked if the city might consider a use-tax, now that Gov. Mike Parson has signed Wayfair legislation.
During the public comment portion, resident Jan Schmidt asked whether the city would pursue getting a use-tax passed in order to collect its cut from out-of-state sales, mainly online sales.
Gov. Mike Parson signed the Wayfair legislation Jan. 30. The law allows state and local jurisdictions to collect a use-tax from online retailers who sell and deliver more than $100,000 in tangible goods to consumers in the state annually. Missouri was the last state in America to adopt such a law. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. allowed states to adopt rules to collect sales and use taxes from business not physically located in their state but who sell and deliver products into the state.
Bonne Terre City Administrator Shawn Kay told Schmidt that Alderman Erik Schonhardt had just asked him if a use-tax should be considered. Kay said the Wayfair legislation “levels the playing field” for local retailers who not only collect tax money that funds public services and infrastructure, they invest in civic events and kids’ activities.
“At some point, we probably will have that discussion. The advantage to the use-tax is, we would collect a little bit of tax. And as we know, there are a lot of people who are buying things online these days,” Kay said. “But the best part of it is, you're able to level the playing field with your local box stores that we have here in town who are investing in our community. They're sponsoring our little league teams and events like our fireworks ‘Light up the Sky.’
"Councilman Schonhardt and I have had a discussion about it. But we have gotten no farther than that.”
Sewer Improvement Plan
The council continued to discuss the possibility of financing a sewer improvement plan presented at last month’s meeting by David Van Lear of David Cochran Engineering. The plan would give a solution to the city’s storm runoff issues. The plan is being funded by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources. The work to remedy the situation would take, by Van Lear’s estimates, about $3.5 million.
Currently, Kay said, the city’s wastewater is pumped, requiring “an enormous amount of money and electricity.”
“We have lift stations all over town to pump the stormwater, and eventually it goes gravity feed to Turkey Creek which lifts it to the plant,” he said. “Today, it works. And on the east side of town, the only thing that's gravity-fed is the ERDCC, anything coming from anywhere else is pumped.
“When we have a big rain event, and we have to divert water because our plant won't handle the flooding, we divert it to our storm ponds. And then once it's there, when the flows slow down, we have to pump it from the storm ponds back to the plant. So we're spending an enormous amount of money and electricity that we wouldn't have to (with the updated sewer system).”
If the council approves of the plan and financing, the city would be on the hook about $200,000 a year for roughly 17 years to upgrade the sewer system, using today’s dollars. Van Lear during last month’s meeting said it would be impossible to predict possible increases in materials and labor over the course of 17 years.
Kay said the city could borrow the necessary money through certificates of participation.
“That money is pretty cheap right now,” he said. “So if the council wanted to try to make this progress, we could give roughly $3 million to jumpstart this project based on a 3% interest rate, and we may be able to do better than that.”
The downside of funding the project that way, Kay said, is that some flexibility might be lost.
“If you go ahead and do this, then we are locked into, every year, spending the $200,000.”
Kay said it was possible to not do the project at this time, but it was important to consider the possibility that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources could eventually order the city to remediate the system, or they might prevent further development in town.
Kay asked the council if they’d like him to continue to pursue the sewer improvement project, and they indicated they would.
Court Fee Removed
Near the beginning of the meeting, Court Clerk Dawn Hendericks informed the council that at the beginning of June, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the $3 fine assessed to the Missouri sheriffs' retirement fund was unconstitutional and can no longer be collected by Missouri municipalities.
According to the Associated Press, judges in a 6-0 decision issued June 1 ruled the sheriffs’ retirement fund is not related to the administration of justice. The case went before the Supreme Court after two Kansas City drivers who received speeding tickets in 2017 challenged the fees. The council approved amending all city ordinances concerning the matter.
Other Council Business
Alderwoman Andrea Richardson said new bulges were observed in the high rock wall on Benham and Summit streets, and wondered if the century-old stone retaining wall could be shored up with more concrete, as well as barricades placed on the sidewalk to prevent people from walking near it. Kay said he had spoken with Missouri Department of Transportation Engineer Brian Okenfuss, who is checking to see if barricades can be placed. The city is responsible for maintenance of the sidewalk and wall, but MoDOT will want to provide input in how the wall and sidewalk are remediated, Kay said.
The Fourth of July “Light Up the Sky” festival organized by the Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce brought in many people from out of town who were impressed by the fireworks display, food and activities that evening, several aldermen and Kay said.
The council heard from developer Auston White, who is asking for an annexation of 2708 Highway K at the corner of Stormy Lane, seven acres which he would like to zone partly commercial, partly residential.
“Mr. White has made it no secret that the benefit for him is, one, he said it's good for the city, and two, he would be able to connect to city sewer and water which would make his project easier, because he's building space for sewer,” Kay said, adding that the Planning and Zoning board had unanimously approved recommending annexation. White explained the residences would be duplexes and quadplexes coming off of Highway K, and the commercial buildings would be accessed from Stormy Lane. He expected the development to occur over several years’ time.
There will be a hearing at 6 p.m. before the next council meeting on Aug. 9 at city hall to hear public comments regarding the annexation.
The board discussed a citizens’ request to restrict the hours on the Lakeview Park parking lot on Sycamore Street, a secondary parking lot that has sometimes attracted long-term residency from homeless people. Police Chief Doug Calvert suggested any ordinance or signage indicate parking was restricted at dusk. The council agreed to pursue restricting parking in that lot to daylight hours only.
During his City Administrator’s Report, Kay reported the Oak Street bridge is closed once again. To smooth the approach to the bridge, which is one of four being repaired with funding from a Community Development Block Grant, the city is having that section milled and an additional 65 feet of asphalt poured on both sides of the construction area. Dover Street repairs are progressing slowly, and contractors poured more storm curbing last week.
The soccer field bathrooms are nearing completion, sidewalk and grading will be next.
Engineering work has been started on the Industrial Park Road, which is being worked on by Taylor Engineering. Kay said Jokerst Paving and Contracting provided a price for 850 feet of new road and curbing that would reach to the end of the two lots the city will split to sell to the St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority.
Kay said the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center will once again loan inmate assistance in the form of mowing, power washing, and general maintenance around the city.
Parkview Apartments parking might get a bit safer for residents who live in the former elementary school-turned residences. The council approved spending $3,000 for about 20 parking blocks and restriping.
Additional council action:
An ordinance approving resident Ruth Ann McCarthy’s request to split her lot at 517 Airport Rd. was tabled until the necessary plat maps could be furnished. McCarthy plans to sell part of her lot to her neighbor.
The aldermen approved an ordinance that allows the Parks and Recreation board to come up with a list of park facilities available for rent and associated fees. Schonhardt asked when the rates would take effect. Kay said not until the board came up with the schedule of fees and the aldermen approved it.
The aldermen approved 20 liquor license applications for 2020-21.
The Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce’s request to hold a Block Party on Aug. 28, 5-10 p.m., was approved, along with closing S. Division Street, W. Johnson Street and E. Johnson Street for the festival.
Resident David Driemeier asked the city to consider adopting an ordinance regulating the amount of facial hair police officers were allowed to grow.
“Bonne Terre Fire Department, all of the other departments in the county, the police departments in surrounding counties, are not allowed to have beards,” he said. “… I don't think it looks good on our city.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.