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St. Louis aldermen pave way for new energy conservation standards for large buildings

St. Louis aldermen pave way for new energy conservation standards for large buildings

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ST. LOUIS — The Board of Aldermen held its first-ever meeting by teleconference with no major glitches Monday, voting to pave the way for new energy efficiency standards for hundreds of large buildings in the city.

The measure, which sets up a new city panel to devise new energy use standards to be adhered to by mid-2025, was among 34 bills passed on the final day of the board’s 2019-2020 session.

Dozens of other bills, such as a controversial plan to increase the number of police districts, died.

While various governmental bodies in St. Louis and across the metro area have been holding virtual meetings for weeks because of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, city aldermen have been on their regular spring break since March 13.

Mary Goodman, an aide to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, said staffers held two training sessions to get the 27 current board members familiar with Zoom teleconferencing procedures.

“All that extra prep work paid off,” Goodman said. The board opens its 2020-21 session via Zoom on Tuesday, with Reed planning to introduce a resolution to set up a special board committee to deal with coronavirus issues. Aldermen won’t begin introducing new legislation until May 1.

The energy bill passed Monday would apply to all buildings of at least 50,000 square feet.

A Building Energy Improvement Board, with representation from the business community, will devise the new standards, assisted by a new city office.

“This is really going to move St. Louis forward in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and make the city a more resilient city,” said the sponsor, Alderman Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward.

Navarro, who also is executive director of the Coalition for the Environment, said the new office would help owners of affected buildings choose the most cost-effective ways to cut electricity and natural gas usage.

Guns in parks; sidewalk closures

Aldermen on Monday also passed bills to:

• Allow private groups that get permits for facilities in city parks to post signs banning the carrying of guns in such areas.

That’s in addition to a citywide guns-in-parks ban approved by aldermen in December.

That measure defined parks as child care facilities exempt from a Missouri state law allowing people to carry concealed firearms without permits and training. But one alderman warned then that the child care angle could be successfully challenged in court by gun rights advocates.

The bill passed Monday offers an alternative way of dealing with the issue, noting that the state law allows private companies and organizations to prohibit guns on their premises.

• Require construction and rehab projects seeking sidewalk closures to detail in advance how they will accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and people in wheelchairs. The city streets director would have to sign off on those plans.

Unsuccessful measures

Among other measures dying Monday was a proposal to schedule a citywide re-vote on a ward reduction plan passed in 2012 and set to go into effect at the 2023 election.

Also rejected was a bill to turn the task of redrawing ward boundaries from aldermen to a citizens’ commission appointed by retired judges.

Other losing measures would have:

• Required a citywide vote on any privatization of major city assets.

• Imposed new standards on the city’s use of street cameras and other surveillance technology.

• Prodded city leaders to close the medium-security jail known as the city workhouse.

• Enacted regulations on the short-term rental of residences to tourists and others.

• Put new restrictions on campaign donations from firms seeking city contracts and barred lobbyist gifts to city officials of more than $5.

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