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Sheriff Rep on 911 Board

16 May

JeffCo Sheriff Glenn Boyer, who is stepping down from that job after this fall’s election, has also stepped down from the Jefferson County 911 Dispatch Board of Directors, on which he has sat since 1990, according to the May 5 Leader. Undersheriff Steve Meinberg, 2nd in command at the sheriff’s office, was appointed to replace him at the April 25 911 board meeting. He was selected over a couple of individuals who have graced these pages before: former state representative Jeff Roorda and Crystal City administrator Jason Eisenbeis.

Meinberg said “it’s important to be a representative of the Sheriff’s Office on the board because we are the largest user of 911 services.” That begs a question:

Meinberg is running to replace Boyer as sheriff in the November election. There are several GOP challengers, one who will be selected in the August primary to take on Meinberg (primary preview here). If Meinberg loses, one assumes that the new sheriff will appoint his own person to be 2nd in command, and it would be advisable and well within his rights to do so. In that case, will Meinberg step down from the 911 board (his term runs until April 2018)? If it is important for the sheriff’s office to have representation on the board, that is what he will do if he loses the election.

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JeffCo 911 Tower Photos

29 Aug

Here are some shots of the new 911 tower on Highway 61/67 in Imperial. This tower is approximately 395 feet tall. You can see it poking up above the trees from I-55 if you look to the east between Barnhart and Imperial. This one was taken from about half a mile away. You can see the tower back behind the trees in the center of the photo (click to enlarge):

Imperial 911 tower

This one is from a quarter mile away.

Imperial 911 tower

 

And here’s a closeup.

Imperial 911 tower

Map of Planned JeffCo 911 Towers

15 Aug

I haven’t seen anyone else do this, so I created a map of the proposed 911 towers planned for our county. Here’s a link to my Google Map, and here’s a jpg. Click to enlarge.

JeffCo 911 tower map

 

Two of the locations are approximate, as I could not find the exact locations. One is at 2050 Blackfoot Drive in Festus, which is closer to De Soto and is labeled as Mohawk Rd on the map. The second is 642 Johnson Road, also in Festus. I put the marker on Johnson Rd, but the exact address did not come up on Google Maps.

We Have an Activist on Our Hands

30 Jan

Two contentious issues that have arisen in JeffCo lately have been the plans for 911 towers and the Pure Pleasure boutique in Pevely. In both cases, local news outlets have found the same person to express the views of the opposition: Ann Moloney, who has been quite active on these issues.
Ann Moloney activist

Here’s KSDK talking to her about 911 in August (left image above), here’s Fox 2 interviewing her in a story about Pure Pleasure (right image above), and here she is on Fox 2 picketing in front of the boutique two weeks ago (despite frequent interactions, Fox keeps spelling her name incorrectly). The Post-Dispatch also chatted with her in Pevely in December 2011. In addition, she made her way to the Letters page in the Leader last week.

As I have stated in my coverage of these issues, I disagree with Moloney on both counts. I think the towers are necessary, and their usefulness outweighs aesthetic concerns (although I disagree with the 911 Board’s decision to pull the plug on their attempts to get local approval for tower locations, which they pretty much knew was unnecessary to begin with, as soon as they ran into opposition). As for Pure Pleasure, I think they have a right to operate and are well within the law.

However, I have to credit her with getting out there and fighting for her views. It is disheartening to see the abuses that occur at the Arnold City Council and at Fox C-6, only to have just one or two people attend and speak at meetings (although that seems to be changing). So good for her for standing up.

Hey, maybe we can convince her to move to Arnold?

JeffCo 911: Never Mind that Permitting Stuff

20 Dec

I have written a couple of times previously on Jefferson County 911’s battle to implement its plan for a new network of communications towers in the county. JeffCo 911 has run into opposition on many of its tower sites, with the County Board of Adjustment denying permits for towers in Dittmer and Barnhart, the County Planning and Zoning Commission offering a “no recommendation” on one in De Soto, and the Arnold P & Z  Commission rejecting a tower there. But now JeffCo 911 is telling us they don’t need approval after all; state law apparently gives them all the authority they need to proceed.

From what I gather in the Leader, JeffCo 911 didn’t request a legal opinion on the matter until it appealed the Arnold tower rejection. The attorneys for both Arnold and 911 (hired especially for this issue because both entities employ Bob Sweeney as their regular attorney, and thus he had a conflict of interest) looked into the issue and concluded 911 can proceed with their towers.

The question here is, how much money, time, and manpower was wasted preparing for all these zoning hearings when they were unnecessary? It is clear from 911 chief Travis Williams that they wanted to do things the nice way, as long as there weren’t any difficulties. From the Leader:

Williams said 911 was trying to appease the county and the cities by going through their zoning process for the towers. “We were trying to be good neighbors, not ramming this down anyone’s throats. But we can’t stop progress and technology moving forward because of a few disgruntled citizens.”

In other words, we didn’t want to ram this down anyone’s throats, but now we are going to. I love his use of the words “appease” and “disgruntled citizens.” 911 had to know damn well that at least some of these towers would face opposition. People get all fired up when you try to build stuff in their backyard. I have been supportive of the tower effort and critical of the NIMBY folks complaining about their view and their property values. But if 911 planned to go through the process just to be nice, and then do an end run if the going got rough, that’s just irresponsible and, as I said, a waste of council members’ and staff members’ time and government entities’ money. And it will tick people off even more.  If it wasn’t their plan, they should have requested this legal opinion at the start of this process, especially since, as Williams said:

“We kind of always suspected from the get-go we have the power to develop the tower because of public safety.”

I agree with Arnold councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier:

“I just have a problem with how 911 handled this. It’s like they tried to play nice, but then said, ‘If you don’t go along, we’ll do it anyway.”

Barnhart tower protester Ann Moloney says she intends to continue her fight, and I suspect the tower opponents in Arnold won’t go away, either.

Starting over on the 911 Tower in Arnold

8 Dec

I wrote here about the effort in the county to place new 911 towers, including one to be placed in Arnold that ran into strong opposition. Well, that Arnold tower project will have to begin again. According to the Post-Dispatch:

In Arnold, the city planning and zoning commission in August recommended that the site be rejected. The dispatch agency has since withdrawn its request for City Council approval out of concern that passage could be difficult.

Doris Borgelt provides more detail, and suggests the withdrawal of the request was not optional:

The project must start the whole process anew due to failure to comply with proper notification procedures.  The project has been plagued with notification errors. The last meeting was postponed because the wrong date appeared on the site signage.  It was determined today that the letters appearing on that same sign were less than the required four inches tall. Since that sign was used for all public hearings, with only the date being changed each time, it was determined that the process needed to go back to the beginning and start over.

I must tip my hat to whichever tower opponent thought to take a ruler to the signs to see if the letters were compliant. I suspect that is standard operating procedures, though, for groups challenging zoning actions. Note this from the P-D article, though:

Dispatch Chief Travis Williams said its board and attorneys are considering options, including filing a lawsuit.

I don’t know what the basis of such a suit would be.

A subject comes up in Doris’ article, and the comments, that is interesting. Arnold puppetmaster Bob Sweeney serves as city attorney for both Arnold and JeffCo 911. But for this Arnold tower request, he could serve neither entity, because of the conflict of interest. So both entities had to hire new attorneys. It seems like a bad move to have an attorney or a board member that serves elsewhere (for a time, Randy Crisler served on both the Arnold City Council and the Rock Ambulance Board, which created conflict in regards to TIF money at Arnold Commons).

911 Needs a Rescue

26 Sep

On a night like tonight, with severe thunderstorm warnings across the county, it is good to be signed up for county Code Red alerts. This service will call or text you when weather or other emergencies take place in your area (these alerts are localized, too, not just countywide). This service is one that Jefferson County 911 is touting in its half-page ad in last week’s Leader, in order to assure us that they are spending the revenue from their new sales tax in an appropriate manner.

Speaking of JeffCo 911, they are running into a bit of opposition in their quest to update the system by erecting 18 towers ranging in height from 175-500 meters throughout the county (note, I can find no map of the proposed sites, so let me know if you can access one). So far, one tower has been denied (and one tabled) by the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Adjustment. In Arnold, the city planning commission denied approval of the tower to be built there (the city council can override that decision), and in Barnhart, an organized movement is afoot to stop the tower planned there. This tower was to be decided on August 23, but I don’t know the result of that meeting (A video may appear right below this sentence; if not, click the link to see it).

Why the opposition? This statement sums it up well: “Residents don’t dispute the purpose of the tower just the location.” In other words: Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)! In Dittmer, it was “aesthetic and safety reasons.” In Barnhart, they are very blatant: “Let’s find really great spots that are not going to destroy beautiful views that we’ve enjoyed here for so long,” [protest leader Ann Moloney] says.” In Arnold, 18 residents said “they feared it would be dangerous in powerful tornadoes, reduce property values and expose them to cancer-causing radiation.”

I am generally unswayed by appeals to property values (property rights are another story). I don’t think property values should trump other rights or, in this case, community needs. Most of the time, the effect of an action on property values is completely unknown and unsubstantiated. If a prospective buyer of my home can see a tower off in the distance, will that really cause them to pay less for my home? “Property values” is often a catch-all facade that really means “I just don’t want that near me.” Some tower opponents are more blatant about this, while others produce other objections to obscure the blatantness of their aesthetic concerns.

A couple of objections brought up in Arnold should be highlighted. Councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier raised a federalism concern, which was shot down:

“Sometimes you have to make a stand. They don’t have the authority to tell us what to do,” she said.

[City Administrator] Shockey said if the city does not comply with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) they would lose their radio license and would be unable to use any kind of radio service. Williams said the time to opt out of the system was in 1992 when the dispatch service was first organized.

I appreciate her desire to restrict government, but this is really not the place to “make a stand.”

Also, a resident said that if the tower were to fall, it might hit a buried gas pipeline, causing an explosion. I’m not sure how the tower would hit a buried pipe. Centerpoint Energy, which owns the pipeline, said (bottom of page 3) “we should not be used as a reason for denial of the tower.” The city council will vote on this tower in late October.

A denial of one or several towers would require the county to come up with new locations, which would acquire additional time and expense, and will also give rise to a new set of residents saying, “not in my backyard!”

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