O'Fallon seeks to stop land donation to Central School

News-DemocratJune 22, 2014 

O'Fallon city leaders have asked a judge to stop a bus company from donating property to Central School District because the company never fixed pools of stormwater harboring mosquitoes on the site.

First Student Inc. owns the disputed property at 149 St. Ellen St. in O'Fallon, which neighbors Central school property in a residential area. A parking lot on the site is covered in rock allowing storm water to pool and create "an infestation of mosquitoes creating a health hazard for the surrounding residents," according to court documents filed June 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

First Student representatives could not be reached for comment.

City officials want a judge to halt the transfer of property and order First Student to reconstruct the parking lot in compliance with city codes. Once the property is owned by the school district, then the city will have no way to force First Student to adhere to city ordinances requiring the parking lot be paved.

O'Fallon Alderman Jerry Mouser said the mosquitoes and bugs from the site are "just awful" and First Student is attempting to avoid legal action from the city by donating the property to the school.

"I have to admit it's somewhat clever on their part," Mouser said, noting city officials do not want to get into a legal battle with Central schools.

City officials initially notified First Student the rock parking lot must be paved with asphalt or concrete in July 2008 when the company expanded an existing parking lot on the property, according to court documents. The portion of the lot creating problems was developed without city permits and in violation of city standards, according to court documents.

Dennis Renner, a former O'Fallon city council member and current St. Clair County Board member, said he and other elected officials have been trying to clean up the bus site "forever" and have heard complaints from nearby residents regarding mosquitoes for years.

Renner also is concerned mosquitoes will bite children riding school busses kept near the site and seek out children on nearby school ball fields.

Central Superintendent John Bute and School Board President Chris Monroe could not be reached for comment.

First Student had been preparing design plans to fix the problem, but in April halted work on the plans. In June, city officials learned of the company's intention to donate the land to Central School District.

Central School District sold the property for $1 to Laidlaw Transit Inc., another bus company, in 2006. First Student Inc. purchased Laidlaw Transit in 2007.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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