Local news, local politics and community events for West St. Louis County Missouri.
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FACEBOOK.COM/WESTNEWSMAGAZINE WESTNEWSMAGAZINE.COM February 14, 2018 WEST NEWSMAGAZINE I NEWS I 11 Wildwood City Council resignations lead to talk of ‘political motivation’ By JESSICA MESZAROS Just a few months prior to the April 3 municipal election, two Wildwood City Councilmembers have resigned and two current candidates for the April 3 election have been tapped to take their place. Councilmembers Jerry Porter [Ward 6] and Larry Goodson [Ward 8] resigned between Feb. 2-6. According to Mayor Jim Bowlin, Porter’s resignation occurred due to family-related health concerns; Goodson’s resignation cited a potential conflict between the time needed for business concerns versus council endeavors. Both held council seats that expire in April with neither running for re-election. In the case of a resignation, or incomplete term, the Wildwood City Charter states: “A vacancy in the City Council shall be filled at the next general municipal election for which the full filing period remains. Until the person elected to serve the remainder of the unexpired term takes office, the Mayor, no later than thirty  days following a vacancy, with advice and consent of a majority of the members of the City Council shall appoint a qualified person to fill the office until the next general municipal election at which the vacancy is filled.” By Feb. 6, Bowlin had selected Brian Rull and Rob Meinert, candidates in the April 3 election, as nominees for Porter’s and Goodson’s seats, respectively. Rull and Meinert were to be presented on Feb. 12 [after presstime] for council approval. According to Bowlin, consideration of possible appointees to fill the vacancies began with Porter’s resignation and continued with Goodson’s resignation a few days later. Of choosing current candidates, Bowlin said, “I’m charged with using my best judgment. There can be a lot of good choices, but I can’t choose more than one.” Meinert said getting the call about the appointment in light of the resignations was a surprise. “I received a phone call Tuesday [Feb. 6] about it, and I was kind of shocked to hear about it from the mayor,” Meinert said. According to Bowlin, the nominees were chosen based on pre-existing interest in the city council along with increased residential recognition due to their present campaign efforts. Rull served as a trustee of the Rockwood Forest Association for 11 years. Meinert served on the city’s Charter Review Commission and the Park Action Plan Update. “One option that I did look at was the appointment of a placeholder for a couple months,” Bowlin said. “In other words, someone who hadn’t filed and someone who didn’t want to file and didn’t have interest, but I feel like that didn’t meet my obligations under the charter and wasn’t in my best judgment because that person might not be as motivated to serve their ward.” Rull is running against Cheryl Jordan for the Ward 6 seat. Jordan currently serves on the City’s Rural Internet Access Committee and has for over a year. Meinert is running against Niles Stephens. If elected, serving on the city council would constitute Stephens first public service in Wildwood government. According to Bowlin, Jordan and Stephens were made aware of the proposed appointments of Rull and Meinert. The candidates are backed by two active, and opposed organizations. We Are Wildwood claims to promote increased transparency and accountability of current city officials, including the upholding of the city’s charter. On its official website [wearewildwood.net], the group declares support for Stephens and Jordan. Progress for Wildwood, a designated political action committee [PAC], identifies its goals as implementing the Wildwood 2020 Plan proposed by Bowlin, implementing the Economic Development Element of the 2016 Master Plan and restoring Town Center development to the city’s original plan. The group’s official website is progressforwildwood.com. On Feb. 8, the group issued a press release proclaiming a list of endorsed April candidates, including Meinert and Rull. In an interview with West Newsmagazine, Meinert said, “I do support the mayor’s 2020 plan, because many of those items revolve around Ward 8, including the Master Plan and the downtown area.”’ The affiliations of the appointees, as well as a proposed city charter amendment [Proposition 3] on the April ballot regard- See WILDWOOD, page 34 New Eureka Elementary School on the horizon for Rockwood students, families By JESSICA MESZAROS In 2017, voters in the Rockwood School District approved Proposition Thrive [Prop T], allowing the district to issue general obligation bonds and borrow $95.5 million to upgrade and furnish facilities for multiple district schools. Today, the new Eureka Elementary School is taking shape to help accommodate an influx of students in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The proposed school is a 108,000-squarefoot, two-story facility that will accommodate about 600 students. It is the district’s first new school building since the establishment of Fairway Elementary in 2004. “We feel good about it,” Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said. “We’re issuing bonds as we go, based on when we need them. We don’t want to hold money that we don’t need, and I think that we’ve done that effectively.” The estimated budget for Eureka Elementary is about $18.5 million, according to Prop T literature. The building will sit on about 13.5 acres off Rockwood Arbors Drive near Workman Road and Six Flags St. Louis. The site also is home to the Arbors of Rockwood, a McBride & Son Homes neighborhood that features multiple villa and single-family homes and about 164 acres of common ground. In addition to the A rendering of the new Eureka Elementary School; construction is expected to begin this spring. new elementary school, the neighborhood also boasts a dog park, public pavilions, walking trails and a community lake. According to Knost, the main purpose for constructing the elementary school is to comfortably accommodate the influx of new students due to the construction of multiple new neighborhoods, with the Arbors of Rockwood only serving as one example. Overall, the district expects to see the addition of over 2,300 new family homes in the area over the next five years. The new school will help the district keep class sizes within or below the standards designated by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education [DESE]. Currently, Rockwood’s preferred class sizes consist of about 20 students in kindergarten through second grade and 23 students per class in grades five and six. DESE standards suggest about 25 students in kindergarten through second grade and 30 students for grades five and six. “It’s just a philosophical goal of mine to keep those class sizes down, and with 2,300 incoming homes, that’s really what we built Prop T around,” Knost said. Along with the new elementary school, new classrooms will be added at Geggie Elementary, along with repurposing the existing Eureka Elementary school for early childhood education and Rockwood School District programs. A large part of Prop T was the funding of collaborative elementary spaces equipped to teach STEM [science, technology, education and math] lessons, including computer programming, robotics, engineering and 3D design. According to Knost, the addition of a new school allows for innovative spaces to be constructed more efficiently alongside other amenities, like labs and libraries. “In essence, teachers can take lessons out of the classroom and into those innovative spaces,” Knost said. “Teachers can maybe teach math lessons designed around something project-based and experiment with robotics pieces, or conduct science experiments and other lessons. It’s really a resource for teachers as well as preparing kids for the 21st century.” Prop T provided about $41.8 million for the creation of specified STEM spaces in all Rockwood elementary schools as well as an estimated $12 million for the replacement of outdated technology. “This allows us to catch up on all the updates with one fell swoop with a much more appropriate building that’s more conducive to how we teach kids today,” Knost said. “It is space designed around the needs of our elementary kids, and we’re thrilled about that.” Competitive bids for the construction of the new elementary school will continue through the beginning of March with the goal of having contractor options to bring before the Board of Education for approval at its March 22 meeting. “Things are coming to fruition,” Knost said, noting that construction is scheduled to begin by mid-April.