October 02, 2013 - St. Louis County officials have agreed not to start construction of an emergency communications tower on South Lindbergh Boulevard, pending the outcome of a lawsuit the city of Sunset Hills has filed against the county.
Sunset Hills filed the lawsuit Sept. 4 against St. Louis County seeking a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and permanent injunction prohibiting the county from constructing the emergency communications tower behind the South County Health Center, 4580 S. Lindbergh Blvd. The site is owned by the county.
Attorneys representing the city and the county met with Circuit Court Judge Robert Cohen last Friday in chambers.
In an order issued that day, Cohen set the case for trial at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in the St. Louis County Courts Building, 7900 Carondelet Ave., Clayton.
Sunset Hills City Attorney Robert E. Jones and Associate County Counselor Cynthia Hoemann initially appeared Sept. 19 before Cohen, who asked them to see if a compromise could be reached.
As proposed, the emergency communications tower would be one of roughly 25 towers being located throughout the county as part of St. Louis County's new emergency communications network.
In its suit, Sunset Hills claims St. Louis County lacks the authority to construct and operate the tower within the city without approval from city officials.
County officials previously requested a CUP from the city for the tower, but the city's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the request. Aldermen later tabled the request to give county officials time to review other possible sites.
On April 23, aldermen voted unanimously to return the county's CUP application to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In its response to the suit, St. Louis County notes a building permit for the tower has been issued by the county, the county is ready to start construction and the tower is vital to public health and safety.
The city contends taxpayers would be better served by the county placing its equipment on a Fox 2 TV tower near Lindbergh High School — roughly 2,500 feet from the site of the health center. Mayor Bill Nolan told the Call that city officials estimated the cost of placing the county's equipment on the Fox 2 tower at $51,000 — much less than the cost of constructing a new tower.
Sunset Hills aldermen questioned David "Duff" Barney, executive director of the St. Louis County Emergency Communications Commission, in December about using the Fox 2 tower.
"No. 1, of course, the health center is county property," he told aldermen. "But the Fox 2 tower, and I'll be as honest as I can, No. 1, there (were) some issues with the rent. They asked for $5,000 a month to begin with, which is about twice what we normally see on commercial towers ... But that wasn't the primary reason. The Fox 2 tower is over 50 years old. It is to its maximum load. The last company that went on that tower, which was just last year, had to spend $68,000 to put less than 200 pounds of antennas and cable on that tower ...
"I've got to put over a thousand pounds of cable and antennas on the new tower or the Fox 2 tower. Do the math. They put up less than 200 pounds. It cost them $68,000. A thousand pounds would double that. It would exceed the cost of a new tower at the health center ...," Barney said.
The cost of the new tower at the health center would be about $100,000 and the county would own the tower, he said.