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Mehlville OK's guns policy in 6-1 vote


Despite a new state law that allows licensed individuals to carry concealed firearms, no one — licensed or not — will be able to bring weapons to Mehlville School District properties, leave firearms in their vehicles or bring them to off-campus school-sponsored events.

The Mehlville School District Board of Education approved concealed weapons policy revisions in a 6-1 vote that now only permits licensed security personnel to carry weapons on district property or to district events.

Vice President Matthew Chellis was the only board member opposed to approving the policy revisions.

"In the states that have passed concealed carry, far less than 1 percent of the eligible population has completed the necessary training and actually obtained the permit and of those who obtained the permit, only a fraction of them, after the novelty wears off, use the permit to carry concealed weapons," Chellis said at the board's Sept. 29 meeting.

"When problems occur, particularly in schools, such as the Columbine shootings, it is not a law-abiding concealed carrier who causes the problem. In fact, a Columbine-type situation may not have been completely stopped or eliminated, but would probably have been ameliorated had there been a properly armed and trained school administrator ... But I just want everyone to think on that and take that into account."

Superintendent Tim Ricker later told the Call he believed the board was moving in the right direction.

"To me, it's common sense," Ricker said. "To others, it makes no sense."

Signs have been ordered to be placed in front of each district building and in areas where there are night-time activities, such as football fields. Signs will state, "Premises off limits to concealed firearms." Stickers also will be placed on doors with similar verbiage.

Signage costs still are undetermined. However, Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and chief financial officer, told the Call that because these expenditures are safety-related, administrators will be able to pick and choose and have some freedom as far as what areas of the budget they will use to fund the signs.

In a separate matter, the board considered, but took no action on a tax-abatement proposal that would have frozen $16,000 in real estate taxes for the Fendler Nursery and Garden Center, 1803 Lemay Ferry Road.

Greg Hayden of the Lemay Chamber of Commerce told board members there is a need for redevelopment in the northern part of the Mehlville district and supporting the tax abatement could help promote the development in Lemay. He said a tax freeze could give Fendler Nursery owners an incentive to continue with the renovation and construction of their property addition.

"If we allow that existing owner or potential developer to put in a good substantial amount of money to a property ... we would propose that we freeze their property taxes ... it would reward that property owner or developer to do those improvements," Hayden said. "And it was our goal to not hurt any school district."

He said he had discussed tax abatements with a number of Lemay projects with County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county.

However, in a summer meeting with Ricker and President Cindy Christopher, Campisi indicated he would not move forward with abatements that would affect the Mehlville School District without the Board of Education's approval.

Christopher earlier had told the Call that, with as much money that has been cut from Mehlville's budget, it is hard to consider losing more through abatements.

Most board members said they were opposed to the abatements, but decided to neither approve or reject the tax-freeze proposal.

Board Secretary Marea Kluth-Hoppe said if the board approved the Fendler Nursery proposal, an example could be set for future abatement proposals.

"It is not mandatory that we approve or not approve this issue ... But I think once we start something, it could become a snowballing effect," she said. "I personally have problems with the board making a recommendation one way or the other. I think that Mr. Campisi can take back many of our concerns. But I think that he and the Economic Development (Council) will have to make the ultimate decision on what to do.''

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