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St. Louis Aldermen Likely To Delay Return To In-Person Meetings

Members of the Personnel and Administration Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen meet in a virtual session on June 30, 2021.
Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Board of Aldermen meetings, such as that of the Personnel and Administration Committee on Thursday, are likely to be virtual until the fall.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen appears poised to delay its return to in-person meetings until the fall.

Aside from its swearing-in ceremonies on April 20, the board has been meeting virtually for 14 months because of the coronavirus pandemic. An early agenda for this week shows lawmakers returning to City Hall on June 11, in line withan approach developed using information from a survey of staff and members. The June 11 date was the earliest that in-person meetings of the full board would resume, while committees would continue to meet virtually.

But during a Thursday meeting of the Personnel and Administration Committee, which handles the board’s operating procedures, some members indicated they would prefer to wait a few more months.

“I don’t think that the board will suffer any irreparable harm by staying out until September,” said Alderman James Page of the 5th Ward. “Most importantly, there are a lot of moving pieces involved in making the decision to return to full service.”

The board’s clerk, Terry Kennedy, said staff agreed with a slower approach.

“The staff is doing more than in the past,” he said. “We’re creating minutes and agendas for all the committee meetings. What many felt was that giving it that time also does not rush us into something that could end up being unsafe and helter-skelter.”

The survey also found that members and staff wanted a deep cleaning of the offices and the chamber, and air purifiers installed. They also asked for the rugs to be replaced, which has not happened since the 1990s. Staff were also worried about the smell of mold, which is much more prominent in the summer.

Alderman Bret Narayan of the 24th Ward said concerns about the pandemic should be addressed. But he also said mold and a desire for new flooring were separate issues and should not delay a return to in-person meetings.

“We’ve said for 18 months now, we need to follow the science on this. Now that they're saying it’s safe to open things back up, I think we need to open back up in the government as well,” he said.

Alderwoman Sharon Tyus of the 1st Ward disagreed.

“I don’t think we’re trying to hijack the COVID issue,” she said. “When we talk about mold and the carpet, I think that’s in connection. COVID is a respiratory illness. If we’re coming back, and we haven’t addressed this issue, will it make it worse?”

The St. Louis County Council resumed in-person meetings June 1.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.