Friday, February 23, 2007

THE PEOPLE SPEAK - Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor

My name is Brad Sewell.  I am the business manager for Frenchtown Transmission Inc., located at 1718 North 2nd Street, St. Charles, Missouri. 
I am responding to an article posted on, under the subject, “Frenchtown developer is in for the long haul”.  In the article, Kim Paris, who represents Griffey Homes and has been quite vocal for her position in a redevelopment plan for the Frenchtown Historic District, suggests the reason the redevelopment has stalled is because the present property owners all “want to become millionaires”, and are asking unreasonable prices for the properties.
I have become quite familiar with Kim Paris during the time this redevelopment plan has been debated by the St. Charles City Council and its constituents.  I would like to commend Kim for her work.  She has represented her group admirably.
The neighborhood Kim Paris is referring to consists mostly of homes built during the 1940’s and 1950’s and includes a few recently built homes.  The businesses are all professional people and their offices or garages.  No liquor stores or taverns.  There is a half-block area with mobile homes.  There are no falling down, dilapidated buildings.  There are a few buildings currently vacant, but no eyesores.
Frenchtown Transmission Inc. occupies a building situated on property which fronts on North 2nd Street, a main thoroughfare, and is less than 50 yards from scenic Missouri River levee, to the rear.  The property is surrounded on three sides by small, flat, vacant, grassy lots, which the City of St. Charles owns and maintains.  One is a park complete with benches and B-B-Q grills.  The building is a mostly metal building, which will withstand the elements for many generations to come, and is more than suitable for the purpose of repairing car and light duty truck transmissions.  The fire department and city code enforcement crews have performed their annual inspections and until recently have never found any infractions.  This year we received a letter from the city regarding some loose soffit panels, a simple problem to repair.
What Kim does not mention, when she accuses people of “Wanting to be millionaires”, is that no good faith dollar offers were tendered for any of the properties in the “Frenchtown Historic District” before the city council began proceeding to have the area declared blighted or the parties involved in redeveloping began proceedings to use eminent domain to acquire the properties.  Their early efforts focused on getting the property on the cheap. 
Eminent Domain is a tool which governing bodies use to acquire properties needed for public works projects when there is an impasse in the negotiations for an amount to be paid for the property.  The City Council took the use of eminent domain out of the redevelopment plan after much protest.
When Kim and her group finally did discuss dollars with the business owners, the offers were for less than a normal appraisal value.
The real issue in the debate is the replacement cost for the properties they wish to acquire.  The properties they wish to acquire are not recent development and the market value of the properties is not near enough to the cost to replace the properties to make it feasible for the Sellers to move.
Normal thinking people and people who do not wish to get into financial trouble, do not attempt to purchase property they cannot afford.  Some of the people she is referring to already are millionaires and got that way by not spending more than they needed to.
Kim and her people want all the people in the redevelopment district to accept offers for the value they appraised the properties at, which was far lower than the appraisal we got, and then move to a different location and bear the cost difference out of our pocket.  That would have these business owners spending more than they desire to spend for the roofs over their head.  They are located where they are located because of the real estate price.
The complaint all along is that the people here are satisfied with their properties.  If Kim and her group wish to own them, they will have to put up the money the people need to move away and we will go gladly.
They do not want to pay and prefer to malign us in the newspapers and on the radio.
I wish Kim and her group well in their endeavors, but they are the ones who “want to be millionaires”, and they want to get there at our expense.

Mr. Haferkamp
View From The Cheap Seats,

I was so glad to read your recent View from the Cheap Seats questioning the Saint Charles School Board’s recent decision to kick kids out of our school district. You really hit the nail on the head when you asked how this could possibly Save the district money. It doesn’t SAVE any money. They calculated that theoretical savings based on the average cost per student and when they kick these kids out the Average cost per student is simply going to increase. They are still going to spend that money, just on fewer kids. The real truth is that kicking these poor kids out of our school isn’t going to SAVE it is really going to COST us money, more than $70,000 in state funding we will not receive.

So, if this decision is not really about the money, why don’t they have the decency and compassion to honor their promise to these teachers and students? It really all comes done to what I told them two years ago, “an average of 27 kids per classroom is not 100% capacity”. Go ahead and do the math. If you take any of their capacity numbers for any of the schools and divide it by the number of classrooms you will get 27 kids per classroom.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines, do not recommend an average of 27 children/classroom in K-4, it is not even the recommended maximum in K-2. Our School Board knows this fact but they decided to ignore everyone and based their entire reorganization on this ridiculous number.

The only way they figured out how to close two elementary and stay within the DESE guidelines was to dump the fifth graders into the middle school, pack them in like the elementary schools. But once again they did not use the right numbers, they let Laidlaw (the bus company) try to figure it all out. But Laidlaw didn’t get all the numbers right, they forgot to count all the kids.

So to cover up how they have botched this reorganization, the Saint Charles School Board has to kick these kids out, not for the reasons they give, but to cover up their own incompetence. They simply don’t want to admit that closing down two elementary schools is a big mistake.

What is most disheartening is the only reason they are cramming this reorganization down our throats is because of their “Project Financial Deficit” in 2010. A projection made back in 2005 that has also proven to be flawed. I want to point out that this past year, with all the schools still open I might add, this school district has done remarkably well financially. At the January meeting, their financial officer reported that the district received $3,000,000 more than it expected. That project supposedly included the tax levy transfer; that surplus was due to their “Conservative” projections, (some might call that way too conservative). Lets also not forget that at the beginning of this school year they paid off an additional $2,000,000 in debt. A very sound financial move I might add that will save the district a significant amount of interest over the course of the next several years.

Just counting those two examples (and there are quite a few more) total up to 5 million dollars. That’s about 10% of their total annual budget of 50 million they underestimated, and quite frankly I don’t care how conservative you are, that isn’t the “Break even” point they predicted back in 2005.

That’s the sad truth of it all, and this school board is still trying to cover it all up. They want to cram kids in like sardines, try to convince us of nonexistent savings, (the busing nightmare is their next shell game), all the while they waste money on new administration offices and fancy laptop computers for themselves. Their ultimate goal (as foolishly verbalized during the Jan. meeting) is to attempt another tax levy transfer. I am certain it will include another threat of reorganization, this time I predict at the high school level. It truly sickens me the way this board likes to hold our children hostages over us. That’s the view from my seat. Keep up the good work Mr. Haferkamp!
Parent and Citizen

Dear Editor
The answer is an average of 27 children per classroom. What does the Saint Charles School Board believe their capacity is? That’s right, an average of 27 children per classroom. If you take any of their school capacity numbers and divide it by the number of classrooms you will get an average of 27 children per classroom. Whenever they talk about their percent capacity, its based on an average of 27 children per classroom. Don’t get fooled by that number; it is not the maximum number of children allowed in a classroom; it is an average. They are using an AVERAGE of 27 children per classroom. What do you get when you have 30 kids in one classroom and 24 in another? According to our school board that is okay because it’s still an average of 27 children per classroom.

But it is not okay. It is not okay with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They don’t like it when you cram more than 27 children per classroom especially in the elementary schools. Our school board is just now figuring that out, and that’s why they are frantically looking for ways to kick kids out of our schools. After all their posturing about declining enrollment numbers, they are turning around and kicking children out because they completely botched the reorganization using that 27 children per classroom as an average.

So now try to answer these questions. What is the best way to drive good teachers out of this district? What is the best way to make parents pull even more children out of our schools? What is the best way to drive down the academic performance of our students? What is the best way for this district to fail the MAP test resulting in the federal mandate to fire all of our teachers (like Saint Louis)? The answer is simple; it’s an average of 27 children per classroom. And it is all brought to you by the Saint Charles School Board who seem to have average IQ of 27.

Jim DuMontelle