On August 7, Olivette residents will be asked to decide the future of the city by voting either for/or against two major propositions, Prop S for Public Safety and Prop P for Parks. Both initiatives total a little over $12 million dollars. Currently, Olivette has absolutely no bond indebtedness.
Olivette pretty much has two distinct constituencies. First, there are the 7,500 residents who have called it home now and even before the 1950s.
The second group is comprised of the public servants who provide for the first group. That would be police, fire, administrative staff; court staff, public works and the parks department. Some 75 or so career employees fall into that category.
In the year 2000, I ran for public office in Olivette. I was both dissatisfied with the lack of economic progress and felt that a certain group of individuals believed that any form of progress was not in the best interest of the rest of us.
That said, I proudly served as both a council member and mayor of the City of Olivette through 2006.
I got to see the inner workings of the local government, and gained a deep appreciation of what the career employees meant to our city.
Bar none, Olivette has one of the best city managers anywhere: Mike McDowell. The highly respected police chief Hank Davenport retired during this stretch and was replaced by another true professional Rick Knox. Olivette was fortunate enough to gain the leadership of Fire Chief John Bailot from Kirkwood upon the retirement of another veteran, Robin Jobe.
What Olivete has in terms of seasoned key personnel, it lacks in physical facilities. Simply put, Olivette has not kept pace with the growth of modern government.
City Hall has to go
The current city hall at 9473 Olive St. is an embarrassment. Jammed into 12,000 square feet in a building dating back more than 60 years is a fire department, a police department, administrative offices and a court system. The building is neither covered 100 percent by sprinklers or is earthquake proof.
Take the fire station for instance:
There are just two bays, and they are so small, the city had to pay extra to purchase custom made fire trucks to fit the space. The space is so inadequate, firemen cannot use fire poles to get from the second to the first floor. Meeting current safety standards, they have 60 seconds to get from their sleeping quarters to their trucks and out the door. That’s impossible with seven on a shift having to race down the stairwell to get to their vehicles.
Their living quarters, bathrooms and workout facility are all intertwined. That’s hardly conducive to good health standards. They lack storage space altogether.
The police department is no better off
No showers for the police officers, their locker room is the size of a broom closet. They lack storage space for evidence documents and their desks are on top of each other. This is another black eye on the city.
The administrative offices and council chambers are no better off. Employees have absolutely no privacy, and the building doesn’t even have a formal entrance out front.
What to do
The city has a provisional contract on an existing building, the old Touch Point Autism headquarters at the entrance of the Olivette Executive Parkway. Some 20,000 feet of space would provide room for an expanded police department on the first floor, and administrative space including meeting rooms, council chamber, kitchen, etc. on the second floor.
Plans call for tearing down city hall and replacing it with a 20,000 foot, four-bay modernized fire department.
Prop P is to add athletic fields and other outdoor recreation at the 26-acre Warson Park on the edge of the city. Voters will have the chance to decided on two entirely distinct and separate propositions.
There is no doubt, Olivette voters need to step up and make this happen. The city hall, fire and police departments belong to the citizens of Olivette and the employees who work in these spaces deserve much better than what they presently have.