Controversy swirls around allegations of closed door meeting in - KMOV.com

Controversy swirls around allegations of closed door meeting in Lake St. Louis

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LAKE ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -

As the Lake Saint Louis Fire District faces a massive budget shortfall, controversy is brewing after allegations the board met behind closed doors.

Tuesday night, the board met with an almost full room of residents demanding answers about potential tax increases or mergers.

It all comes after State Rep. Justin Hill posted to social media about concerns he had about a November meeting where those issues were discussed.

“I asked if they were in closed session, they said no, so I said ‘well the doors are locked, it’s hard to have an open public meeting with the doors locked,” said Rep. Hill, who’s district includes Lake St. Louis,

Lake Saint Louis Fire District Board Chairman Mike Pendergast said the front doors were locked, but it was for safety concerns.

“In this day and age leaving all doors unlocked and letting anyone walk in at all times is something to be concerned about but the fire bay was open,” explained Pendergast.

However, Pendergast added they are glad people showed up in force at Tuesday’s meeting because the issues are vital to the city.

“We’ve been running on a shoe string for the last couple of years and at some point we’re going to need to go back to our voters and let them know what our resource requirements are,” he said.

The district approved a budget Tuesday with a $150,000 deficit. The numbers jumped as they added in a salary to hire a new fire chief. For the last two months, the city has been sharing Wentzville’s chief.

But they also are in need of new equipment.

“To get this truck to start we have to jump it each time,” explained firefighter Justin Darnell, pointing to one of the 17 year old trucks in their fire house.

They also have leaky hose valves, a rescue boat pieced together with duct tape and turn out gear that’s past its recommend use date.

The board is exploring several options, one of them was a proposed $8 million bond. It could add $15-20 to a homeowners’ bill each month. The other option is a consolidation of services.

“Merging with Wentzville has been discussed off and on for years,” explained Pendergast.

Rep. Hill said he also believes the district is going to need additional revenue to sustain its operation, but he just wants it to be done with the public present.

“This all needs to be done in an open, public discussion,” said Rep. Hill.

There is an election in April and the board will fill an empty seat. Pendergast said they plan to wait until after that election before major decisions are made. Any bond increase or merger would be ways away and would require a public vote. But down the road, they know something will need to be done.

“To replace all this equipment and get us stuff we need to do our jobs safe and well, is going to need additional revenue one way or another,” Pendergast said.

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