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Posted on: February 12, 2021

Transparency - Mayoral Response

Pat Fribis

To the Residents of Sunset Hills, 

After listening to the news broadcasts and reading the social media conversations, I think it is important to set the record straight on a few concerns noted by residents in the area surrounding Missouri American Water Company’s water tower project. 

  1. City Transparency: The City of Sunset Hills goes beyond the legal requirements when it comes to sharing information with the public. For this particular project, the residents within 300 feet of the property were mailed a Public Notice postcard 15 days prior to the first public hearing. In addition to the courtesy postcard sent via USPS, notices are posted on the property, in the newspaper, and on our website. Our Planning and Zoning Commission held the first public hearing for this project on November 4, 2020. During that meeting, one resident, Ms. Jen Carlson, asked questions of the petitioner; no other residents spoke. The second public hearing was held in front of the Board of Aldermen on December 8, 2020; again, no residents spoke or sent in public comments on the project. At this meeting, Missouri American Water Company requested a second reading, which would have allowed the project to be voted on that evening. In an effort to allow for greater transparency and for the public to comment, the Board of Aldermen denied their request, requiring them to have their second reading at the January 12, 2021 Board of Aldermen meeting. I value transparency in the City of Sunset Hills and will always be available to answer questions from our residents or discuss upcoming agenda items. 
  2. Public Utility Zoning Legalities: During my previous public comments I mentioned that fourth-class cities do not have zoning authority over public utilities. What this means is that the City of Sunset Hills, as a fourth-class city, is not able to deny a public utility a permit based on the location of their facility. That authority is granted only to the Public Service Commission by the State of Missouri. This law has been upheld in many legal proceedings and our City Attorney advised against attempting to regulate the location of the water tower. When I took my Oath of Office, I swore to uphold the laws of this city, and the laws of the State of Missouri; I will not willfully allow the City of Sunset Hills to be sued, knowing what the outcome will be. 
  3. Fox 2 News Interview: I did deny Elliot Davis an interview. It is unfortunate that he chose, again, to leave out much of my response to him in an effort to fit his 'sensationalism-styled' news story. Please take a moment to read my full comment:

“Thank you for showing an interest in the City of Sunset Hills. I must respectfully decline granting you an interview concerning the Missouri American Water Company water tower project. I do not take this position lightly. 

First, the matter at issue is still ongoing. We are still bringing out resident concerns and suggestions to improve the project or satisfy their concerns. Since Public Utilities are regulated by the Public Service Commission, I would suggest you contact them and/or Missouri American Water Company with your questions. 

Secondly, based on your recent reporting on the Winter Brother’s project in the Sunset Hills Flood Plain that misreported the facts and edited out some of my statements in an interview, I must decline future interviews. Specifically, you misreported and created the false impression that the City permitted the permanent dumping of 57,000 cubic yards of fill in a flood plain creating a danger of future flooding. You failed to report to the public that this 57,000 cubic yards of fill was temporary only and was put in place to insure stability of the land by mimicking the weight of the future buildings, and would subsequently be removed. This information was conveyed by the engineer at the very meeting that you attended.

 Again, thank you for your interest.”

I am available to discuss this topic further and will continue to enforce transparency in the City of Sunset Hills. It is my hope that this information clears up some of the confusion that has been created by incorrect social media statements. Missouri American Water Company continues to work with the city and the residents in an effort to be a good neighbor, just as they have since the original tower was built, back in the 1930’s. 

Sincerely, 

Mayor Patricia Fribis

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