The plan for a grand merger of all St. Louis County municipalities and the City of St. Louis has gone belly up for now, but some less grandiose efforts at intergovernmental comingling are progressing handsomely.
An example is the long-standing agreement by which the city of Kirkwood provides police protection for the adjacent city of Oakland.
“This is something that shows people can work together, share resources and facilities, etc. Obviously, this could be done on a larger basis too,” Kirkwood Mayor Tim Griffin said of the agreement. “I think the more of it (intergovernmental cooperation) the better. It’s a good deal for Oakland; it’s a great deal for us.”
Oakland officials are well aware of the value of the arrangement, said Mayor Andrew Stewart. The city never has even considered providing its own police protection, instead contracting first with St. Louis County and, since the mid-1990s, with Kirkwood, he said.
“It’s never crossed anyone’s mind that we would have our own police force,” said Stewart. “It’s preposterous. We outsource anything that doesn’t make financial sense for us to do ourselves, and (we) obviously get better-trained and better-quality officers than if we tried to do it on our own.”
Kirkwood cops “give us great service and treat us just as well as they treat their own residents,” Stewart said. “They’re very responsive and they really want to work with us on whatever issues we might have, which fortunately are not a lot. From the mayor to the police chief to the patrol officers, they’ve always been very gracious and hard-working.”
The same goes for the Kirkwood Fire Department, the services of which also are included in the contract, Stewart added.
“We always use the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and occasionally there’s a real fire. Their department also sees us (Oakland) as just an extension of Kirkwood,” Stewart said.
The agreement obliges Oakland to pay $151,000 a year for the next five years, with a 3.5 percent annual riser for inflation. For that, the town gets fire protection, EMS service and police protection. The Kirkwood City Council unanimously approved the contract May 2.
A bonus in the agreement is that Oakland will be served by one of the few Missouri municipal police departments recognized by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), an honor conferred May 4 upon Kirkwood and Des Peres.
Oakland, a city of 1,400 souls (at last census), occupies a .61-square-mile patch of land between West Lockwood Avenue on the north, Big Bend Boulevard on the south, South Berry Road on the east and South Holmes Avenue on the west.
Kirkwood’s police are glad it’s there.
“We have a great relationship with the City of Oakland,” said Kirkwood Police Chief Brian Murphy.
It’s a case of one hand washing the other, said Murphy. Oakland purchased an electronic traffic sign that can advise oncoming motorists of their status regarding the speed limit – a smiley face for drivers in compliance; “a non-smiley face” for violators, said the chief.
Oakland also used its funds from the new St. Louis County police sales tax to pay half the $38,000 cost of a new patrol car, Murphy said. The other half of the cost came from a matching state grant.