LSL aldermen approve private street snowplowing
By: Michael R. Smith
At its Nov. 5 meeting the Lake St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave final approval to a controversial plan to snowplow some private streets in the city. The plan has divided the council and residents for months. It has also angered the mayor who gave his only city veto to a related ordinance.
In the end, Ward Three representatives Kathy Schweikert and Karen Vennard continued to protest the plan and cast the only two dissenting votes in the 6-4 decision.
The new ordinance is related to an earlier one that allowed the city to pay for snowplow service on private subdivision roads. The new ordinance defines which private subdivisions can receive reimbursement from the city: Only subdivisions with homeowners associations (HOAs) qualify.
The new law means that HOAs can contract snow removal service, and then tap city funds for reimbursement. The city’s maximum annual cost is $15,000.
Opponents of the ordinance said that private subdivisions are legally responsible for maintaining their streets — which includes snow removal, and that the ordinance violated state laws which prohibit public funds being be used for private purposes.
Proponents for the plan argued that the snowplow service gave private subdivision residents the same benefit for their city taxes as other residents, was legal because public funds provide all residents public services like police and fire protection, and provides health and safety to private street homeowners.
Schweikert disputed the arguments about the legality and safety issues because the “new bill removes condominiums, apartments, and some streets because they do not have active homeowners’ associations. Safety is not there for everyone.”
Ward One Alderman Ralph Sidebottom said that “misinformation” had been spread about the bill being illegal. He asked Matt Reh, an attorney with the city’s legal counsel Armstrong Teasdale, to publicly comment on what he had advised the board in an executive session in August.
Reh replied that there were constitutional case decisions which made “prohibitions on spending public funds for private purposes” as well as others which indicated that “expenditures for health and safety are under some circumstances acceptable. I believe (the ordinance) is more likely to be constitutional,” Reh said.
After the vote Mayor Mike Potter said “I’m the one that’s saying it’s unconstitutional — especially now that we’re picking and choosing which private streets we’re taking care of. I guess if you have an HOA you have health and safety issues and if you don’t have an HOA you don’t have health and safety issues.”
During the meeting aldermen also tabled two other issues for further review which have attracted local attention: a bill which clarifies how slow-moving vehicles like golf carts can use public streets and another which prohibits retail sales of tobacco-related items like rolling papers that are used by drug uses.