Olivette Municipal Building No Longer Meets Safety Requirements

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OLIVETTE, MO (KPLR) - Cramped quarters at the Olivette Municipal Building have firefighters doing paper work in the garage and police officers storing gear in what is supposed to be a prisoner holding cell.

The twelve thousand square foot building houses the police department, fire department and city hall offices.  City officials and two citizen surveys say the sixty year old building has outlived its usefulness.  Mayor Arthur Merdinian has been advocating for expanded city facilities for several years.  He says the lack of storage space for documents and equipment makes the building a possible fire risk.

Olivette City voters will find a 9.3 million dollar bond issue on the August 7th Primary election ballot to purchase an existing office building for city hall and the police department and to build a new fire station at the existing municipal building site.  A four-sevenths majority is needed for approval.

Police Chief Rick Knox is worried heat from an emergency generator could knock out the building's phone and computer systems during an emergency.  "When this building was built the police department started with two officers.  We have 23 officers today," Knox said.  Police officers now must have body armor, heavy boots and riot gear.  But their lockers can't accommodate the equipment.

Security issues are also a concern.  Prisoners must be brought to an unsecured hallway to be fingerprinted and the police department does not have adequate dressing and shower areas for police officers.

On the Fire Department side of the building, the garage can barely hold the department's modern fire trucks and ambulance.  The fire trucks have only a two inch clearance to the garage ceiling.  Low ceilings mean the department could not house a ladder truck if one is needed in the future.

"There's no sprinkler system," said Fire Chief John Bailot. “I have guys sleeping upstairs in a bunk room and in today's codes for sleeping facilities in a hotel or motel it's required to have sprinklers and fire alarms."

Bailot is also worried about what would happen if an earthquake struck Olivette.  "I can't tell people we'll be able to get out of this building.  There may be crumbling. There may be a simple thing of those front doors racking where we can't even get the trucks out."

If passed, the public safety bond issue would cost property owners 26.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.  For a $200,000 house that would mean an additional $8.39 in taxes per month.

A separate bond issue, Proposition P asks voters to approve a 3 million dollar bond to upgrade and renovate Warson Park.  The entrance to the underutilized park would be switched from a residential area to Warson Road.  Plans call for additional ball fields and new drainage systems for all the fields, tennis courts, a walking trail and an outdoor pavilion.  The aging community center at the park would be torn down.  City leaders say it needs major repairs and is not generating sufficient income to operate it.

If approved by the required four-sevenths majority, Proposition P would cost the owner of a $200,000 house $2.85 a month.

For more information go to the Olivette campaign web site at www.voteolivette.com.
The city web site contains answers to frequently asked questions about the two proposals http://www.olivettemo.com/pView.aspx?id=2813&catid=26.

Public forums concerning the proposals will be held at the Olivette City Hall, 9473 Olive Blvd. July 28 at 10am; July 31 at 7pm; Open House August 5 from 1pm to 4pm.

betsey.bruce@tvstl.com