A presentation about trees planned near the front of exposed a stone in the shoe of the hospital's neighbors during Monday's meeting of the Richmond Heights City Council.
Don Wojtkowski, executive director of design and construction for SSM Health Care, explained that approximately 13 trees will be planted along Clayton Road as part of ongoing renovations as the facility. A ordinance would make the city responsible for planting and maintaining those trees.
Wojtkowski said a contract would then transfer that responsibility from Richmond Heights to the hospital. He encouraged the council to pass the ordinance.
But before a word had spoken about trees, District 2 Councilman Jim Thomson asked Wojtkowski about that have drawn complaints from neighbors.
Councilwoman Gina Mitten represents District 3, which includes the hospital. She said that she recently visited one of her constituents in the area and that the noise was very noticeable.
“I understand that there’s a new round of discussions about the noise happening over the past six, eight, 10 months, but I’ve been on the council now for almost eight years, and I think I got my first call about the noise seven and a half years ago,” Mitten said.
She told the council that she made a commitment to a constituent that she would not approve anything having to do with the hospital until the noise from the air-conditioners is resolved.
Wojtkowski said the hospital has done what it up until now, including wrapping the chillers and installing acoustic louvres and variable-speed drives for the fans. He said the hospital has kept its commitments to neighbors to do what it can to reduce the noise. When the system is turned off this winter, new technology fans that run more quietly will be installed, he said.
Mayor James Beck said the hospital has lived up to its word.
“I’m anticipating that the winter work on this will take care of this problem,” Beck said. “I will support this (planting the trees), but if (fixing the noise problem) doesn’t happen, then we’re going to have problems in the future.”
District 1 Councilman Paul Lore wondered whether St. Louis County or Richmond Heights would be liable were an accident involving one of the trees to occur. The trees will be on St. Louis County right-of-way but located in the city. City Attorney Kenneth Heinz said he thinks the city would be liable, but he appeared to be comfortable with any risk associated with the project.
After the discussion, the council voted to authorize the mayor to execute a contract with St. Louis County about the along Clayton Road between Bellevue and Yale avenues. Mitten and Lore dissented.
Chicken law's notification component discussed
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jim St. Clair asked the council to reconsider part of a proposed ordinance that would allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards.
He said the ordinance states that chickens need to be in the center of the backyard, and if they are to one side or the other, neighbors need to be notified. St. Clair said he wants the city, not prospective chicken owners, to be responsible for notifying neighbors.
Several council members indicated that whenever a variance is needed, it is the responsibility of residents and not the city to do the notifying.
Acting city manager thanked for service
At the end of the meeting, Mitten thanked Dave Reary for sitting in as city manager for the past several months. Reary, Richmond Heights building and zoning commissioner, has been acting in that role while City Manager Amy Hamilton has been on maternity leave.
Hamilton will return to work Oct. 24.