Approves initial steps to refund pool bonds

The St. James City Council appointed Johnnie Huster to fill its vacant ward four seat during a July 14 meeting. The seat had been empty since former councilman Josh Cahill resigned in June after purchasing a home in another ward.

Mayor Dennis Wilson said three candidates initially expressed interest in filling the seat, but two withdrew from consideration when re-approached by Wilson.

Huster is a retiree from the St. James School District where he was the long-time building and grounds administrator.

In other business, the council received a briefing from Meramec region MoDOT engineer Preston Kramer, who highlighted the details of the upcoming August Constitutional Amendment 7, a 3/4 cent transportation tax.

Kramer said cities and counties face the same transportation funding shortfalls as MoDOT, which is why the 10-year tax includes a measure directing funds to local road repair entities. If the amendment is approved by voters, St. James would receive $289,000 over the course of the duration of the tax.

"The Meramec region currently has $1 billion worth of unfunded transportation needs," Kramer said.

Under the condition of the amendments passage, the city would be free to use the money from the tax on any transportation improvements and repairs.

n The council also approved preparatory measures for refunding bonds for the purpose of pool maintenance.

Joy Howard, from WM Financial Strategies, advised the council that the timing was right, given low interest rates, which could save the city up to $200,000.

"I'm not for sure if there is going to be a better time than now," Howard said.

The city had began the process of refunding the bonds last year before interest rates spiked causing the city to table the item.

Initial cost to the city will be $12,500 to obtain a Moody's rating along with other financial groundwork.

n The city approved bids to purchase one patrol car and one police vehicle for use by the chief. The city solicited bids from three dealerships, including Machens Ford in Columbia, Hutcheson Ford in St. James and West Brothers in Sullivan.

Machens, who controls a state contract allowing it to sell at a reduced rate, submitted a bid nearly $6,000 cheaper than the Hutcheson and West bids.

The council deliberated whether to purchase locally despite the cost difference, however, approved the purchase of the vehicles from Machens while also recommending the department use Hutcheson to maintain the fleet.