Several issues have plunged Ladue into wrangling over the use of diminishing funds. Several citizens still believe the federal government will ride in on a white horse to fund sidewalks and other projects. Those funds have long dried up.
The budget for 2012-13 was approved at the regular meeting of the city council Monday night, but not without a battle over some projects favored by Mayor Anthony Bommarito.
Ward 1 Councilman John Fox took the mayor to task, insisting that $55,000 worth of appropriations be dropped from the new budget. Those funds ($30,000 for communications help, $25,000 for graphic design and $5,000 for web development) were axed by voice vote of the council.
“We have the finest city in the state, but our website is not up to standard. When people move into Ladue, especially out of town, the first place they look is the city’s website. Nothing has changed in years, and it needs updating,” the mayor said.
The mayor wants to set aside communications dollars for crisis management. Recently, there was a brief protest on the sidewalks in front of city hall, and the mayor and staffers had to scramble to craft a message to the media.
“That’s not my area of expertise. I need help with my grammar,” the mayor said.
The mayor said the city would not add a staff public relations person. Rather, the city would draw from the expertise in the world of public relations paid for by retainer, and those services would be utilized only when needed.
Ward 2 Councilmember Walter Stern and Ward 3 Councilmember Nancy Spewak pointed to the past three mayors who relied on public relations help from volunteers who resided in the community.
At the same meeting, the largest attended in modern times featured a major discussion about expanding sidewalks on arterials such as McKnight, Dielman and Price roads.
Ladue residents Mark Schnuck and Beth Deutch led a group of proponents for the cause.
“It’s nice to see children at our meeting. We want to keep our city accessible for all of our citizens. I am very supportive of the people who came here today to promote sidewalks in Ladue,” Schnuck said.
Stern stated that the proposed sidewalks are primarily in Ward 1
“People in other wards along Warson Road and Litzsinger Road want sidewalks too,” Stern said.
Schnuck and other proposed doing sidewalks in conjunction with the rebuilding of two bridges on McKnight Road.
Some $95,000 has been budgeted for 1212 for facilities upgrades in Ladue and at a previous meeting, a $19,000 contract was approved by the engineering firm of Horner & Schifrin to evaluate sidewalk infrastructure and make some future sidewalk recommendations.
Council members and the mayor concluded that moving forward on this issue will hinge on safety issues, costs and feasibility of the project.
Resident Mary Berner, who was defeated in the last mayor’s race, suggested the pension fund was short some $12 million.
Deutch said the council needs to “start somewhere,” urging the members to show vision and leadership for the sidewalk issue.
“Our responsibility to the citizens is to maintain a safe city including sidewalks and he said we (the council) should not turn our backs on that,” Bommarito said.
Speakers who said they have to jump out of the way of oncoming cars while walking in traffic agree.
John Gould, often a spokesman at meetings, estimated costs of sidewalks to be in the $10 million range and thinks a bond issue or tax levy will be required to do the project.
“The Ladue School District is some $120 million in debt. We will need some $4.6 million to build a fire house. I hope we don’t hold a project like the fire house hostage at the expense of building sidewalks,” said Gould.