A proposed tree ordinance that a majority of St. James City Council members favored last month was voted down at the June council meeting after new information came to the council’s attention.

A proposed tree ordinance that a majority of St. James City Council members favored last month was voted down at the June council meeting after new information came to the council’s attention.
Councilman John Huster had initially recommended approving the ordinance, No. 16-1082, saying it would return the power of managing trees on city property in St. James back to the city.
Huster had said that the forestry board could pick and choose which trees to remove or save, while the ordinance would have given that power to the city.
However, Huster said at the Monday, June 13, council meeting that  City Administrator Harold Selby found language in the existing city codes that already addressed Huster’s concerns.
“We don’t have to change a thing,” Huster said last week. “We found out the city already has that power.”
At the council’s May 9 meeting, members voted 5-3 to approve a first reading of the tree ordinance.
However, with this new information discovered, at the June 13 meeting, a motion was made to “kill” the ordinance, and all eight council members voted in favor of that.
That means the existing city code will stay in effect.
Huster said he has no issues with the forestry board offering suggestions on managing trees on city property, but when it comes to insurance claims involving trees, Huster said the city should have no hesitation to remove those trees causing problems.
During discussion of the tree ordinance, Councilman Robert Smith asked if the council has ever given the forestry board a deadline to give suggestions on how to deal with some of the problems involving trees, such as the sweetgum trees, which drop fruits commonly called "gumballs.”
No deadlines seemed to have been given, but Mayor Jim White said the city now has a tree inventory, thanks to the help of the forestry board, and that tree inventory lists ratings for each tree on city property.
The forestry board is not allocated at money, and members are not paid. The tree inventory was completed thanks to a grant.
Money has been allocated to the street department in this year’s budget to remove some “problem” trees.
Councilman David Watkins said with those funds, he hopes to see some progress.
Selby also has been talking with Joplin officials, who have had similar tree issues.
Selby said he also has talked with a Missouri Department of Conservation agent about trees along West Hardy Street near Jones Funeral Home. Selby was told that while some trees may have a healthy appearance on the outside, they may be hollow inside.
The council was told that the forestry board will still have a say on what trees would be removed and what types of trees they would be replaced with.

Asphalt bids
Also at the June 13 meeting, the council approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a contract with NB West Contracting for asphalt overlay projects this year.
The resolution states that the city awards a $120,282.40 contract to NB West.
Streets Superintendent John Edgar said no asphalt work was done on city streets last year.
NB West had the lowest bid at $63.44 per ton. Other bidders included Pierce Asphalt, $70.79 per ton; and Capital Paving, $67.50 per ton.
Watkins asked if the city awards a contract to the lowest bidder, is the city losing out on quality because of a lower price? Edgar said that is not the case this time but noted there are differences in the quality of asphalt offered by various companies.
Among the streets planned for asphalt overlays this year include Helen Street, James Lane and St. Ann Avenue as well as possibly North Springfield Street.
Smith said he was concerned about placing asphalt on streets with no curbs. “It won’t be maintained as well; there’s nothing to hold it in place.”
Smith was told that the bigger concern is keeping water away from the asphalt.

Audit bids
In other business, council members approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Bates CPA, of St. Charles, for auditing services. According to the resolution, Bates submitted the lowest bid — $13,750 for the first two years and $14,450 for the third year.
Other bidders were as follows:
• Kean & Company for $15,000 per year;
• Maloney, Wright & Robbins for $15,900 the first year, $16,500 the second year and $17,000 the third year; and
• Hochschild, Bloom & Company, LLP, for $15,000 per year.
City Clerk Sarah Wheeler said auditors were asked for bids for three years, with the option for two one-year extensions.

Conflict of interest
The council also unanimously passed an ordinance to establish a procedure to disclose potential conflicts of interest and substantial interests for certain municipal officials.
This ordinance is required to be adopted annually by the council by state statutes.
Both first and second readings took place at the June 13 meeting, and that caused Watkins to question why some ordinances get both readings at the same meeting and others have a second reading at the next month’s meeting.
Councilman Alan Sachs agreed with Watkins, saying the council is not consistent on first and second readings.
The mayor said for ordinances such as the conflict of interest issue, which the council really cannot change, “there’s no use in prolonging it.”
However, White said for  ordinances that pertain to St. James residents, he likes to wait until the next meeting to have a second reading.