The Jefferson County Council narrowly decided against setting a precedent in its two-year-old program that allows the Public Works Department to take over maintenance of private subdivision streets in unincorporated areas.
The council voted 3-3 with an abstention not to amend an ordinance that would have accepted the Harmony Hills subdivision just south of Arnold into the program without first paying the full cost of bringing its three streets up to county standards.
Because the amendment did not get a majority vote from the seven council members, it was not approved. The amendment was proposed by Councilman Phil Hendrickson (District 3, Arnold), who represents the area.
The council then voted unanimously to give initial approval to the ordinance that would allow Harmony Hills to be accepted into the program, as long as the subdivision’s Homeowners Association pays the county $14,000 to fix its streets.
Attorney Steven Jerrell, who lives in the subdivision, had asked the council to consider allowing the homeowners to pay $9,000 instead.
Jonas said the streets in subdivisions that apply to be accepted into the county road maintenance program are graded on a 100-point scale.
“If you score 72 or higher, no matter what deficiencies (to streets) you may have, you are accepted with no cost-share applied,” he said. “The reasoning is if you’re scoring that high, any problems would be minor.”
Jonas said Harmony Hills’ three streets – Harmony Hills Drive, Harmony Ridge Drive and Cord Circle – scored 63 points.
“If you score between 62 and 71 points, the subdivision can be brought in on a cost-share basis – the county pays 50 percent of the cost of repairs and the subdivision the other half,” he said.
Jonas said one of the three streets in Harmony Hills is concrete, and some portions needed to be replaced or have the cracks repaired. The two asphalt streets, he said, needed to be sealed.
“Under the terms of the agreement, we would accept the subdivision into the program by May 1, and the homeowners would need to pay the county that money by then. After that, we would schedule repairs to be done,” Jonas said.
After Hendrickson made the amendment to cut the homeowners’ cost of the repairs to $9,000, Councilman Charles Groeteke (District 4, Barnhart) asked a question.
“Will this set a precedent for this kind of program?” he asked.
County Counselor Wes Yates said it would.
“If you change the rules for one, you have to change them for all, or you’re going to be sued,” he said. “Expect other people to come up and ask this. Just know that you may have to tell the next person no.”
“It may be a greater amount next time,” Groeteke said.
“Or it may be $1,000,” Yates replied.
Hendrickson and fellow council members Brian Haskins (District 1, High Ridge) and Renee Reuter (District 2, Imperial) voted for the amendment to lower the amount; Tracey Perry (District 5, Festus), Dan Stallman (District 6, De Soto) and Jim Terry (District 7, Cedar Hill) voted no.
“I didn’t want the people to think I was against them,” he said, “but I didn’t want to set a precedent that would allow other HOAs from much larger subdivisions to come in and expect us to pay for hundreds of dollars of improvements. There is only so much money to go around, and we’re trying to help as many subdivisions and people as we can.”
Jonas said to date, the county has accepted 49 subdivisions into the program and is maintaining 43 miles of streets in those developments.