It was a comedy of towers Tuesday night at Parkville’s Board of Aldermen meeting. The board unanimously approved a request to move forward with contract negotiations to erect a cellular tower at Grigsby Field after attending to lingering fallout from last month’s race for Ward 1 Alderman, which hinged on a 2002 proposal to raise a tower approximately 1,000 feet from the newly proposed site.
A cell tower controversy became the central issue in last month’s alderman race between Deborah Butcher and Tom Hutsler, which Butcher won by a narrow 16 votes.
In the final days of the campaign, Butcher’s campaign committee disseminated campaign literature contending that Hutsler was not opposed to the 2002 proposal because he did not publicly voice his opposition at a planning and zoning meeting.
The materials included a letter signed by past and present planning and zoning commissioners. It did not include a disclosure statement indicating who paid for the letter and appeared to infer that it was issued by the commission in its official capacity. An accompanying piece specifically stated that the letter was from the “2002 Planning and Zoning Board” and asked voters to vote for Butcher.
Ironically, Alderman Jack Friedman initially approached the city last fall with the idea of a cell tower to fund lights at the baseball field. Friedman was a steadfast supporter of Butcher. In fact, Hutsler accused Friedman of accosting him at the polls on the morning of the election.
The tower will be 120 feet tall and camouflaged as a flagpole with the remainder of the tower extending beyond the flag. At its base, it will be supported by a small structure that will house a communications center to route the calls.
Butcher and Friedman joined with the rest of the board to allow negotiations to proceed.
One resident rose to admonish the aldermen for contemplating the issue in the aftermath of the recent election. He decried Friedman’s move for offering the idea and said that the board should drop the matter immediately.
Hutsler addressed the board out of a perceived necessity. He said, “I will not say if I’m for or against it, … [but] Heaven forbid if I should come to a meeting in the city of Parkville about a cell tower and not speak.”
He proceeded to say that there was a safety issue after Alderman Dave Rittman said that 911 calls from the downtown area were routed to Kansas City, Kansas as the calls are picked up from a tower on the other side of the river.
While neither speaker addressed him nor mentioned his name, Friedman defended his position and he told Hutsler as he returned to his seat that he was simply trying to attract more patrons to the community and the downtown district.
The new executive director of the Metropolitan Ambulatory Service Trust (MAST), Doug Hooten, requested a $31,500 subsidy for the service.
Parkville is seeking to form an ambulance district in an effort to share costs with nearby cities and unincorporated areas in southern Platte County, pending the passage of state legislation to allow the arrangement.
Alderman Dave Rittman indicated that the board might be willing to provide a subsidy to the ambulance service. He, however, told Hooten that MAST’s current response times are unacceptable and all too frequently range from 13 to 15 minutes.
“I don’t see any performance,” he charged.
“We are looking for an ambulance service that provides quick, reliable response, … We’re trying to get consistency and reliability for our citizens,” he added.
Hooten defended the ambulance service and reported that an increasing number of communities are agreeing to the idea of subsidizing the service.
“Quality has always been our forte,” he insisted.
“When I got here, MAST was in a little bit of disarray. OK, MAST was in a lot of disarray,” he said.
He added, “We’ve gone from having very little money in the bank to doing very well.”
In fact, Hooten reported that the organization had its best month in its history last month.
Hooten indicated that the service could create any scenario that the city envisions. He, however, said that it would cost exponentially and that the city would bear that cost.
He said that the board must ponder the question: “How much do you [want to] pay for [faster response times]?”
Dusenbery said that the response times had improved considerably since Hooten’s arrival.
In other business, the board honored Hutsler’s request to hold a “Bike Night” in English Landing Center on Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. beginning Tuesday, May 10. The weekly event is designed to attract patrons to the downtown corridor.
Friedman provided the lone dissenting vote as the board offered its tentative approval of the event. The board will revisit the issue next month after a four-week trial period.
Friedman was concerned about noise pollution and indicated that he could support a monthly event but believed that holding it weekly was excessive.
John Miller reported that the Friends of Parkville Animal Shelter raised more than $28,000 at its recent auction. The group previously pledged to devote all funds in excess of $8,000 to erecting a permanent facility for the shelter. Miller said that they were amazed at the totals.