ST. LOUIS – There’s a new plan to start using a St. Louis landmark again after it sat empty and unused for most of the past three years.
The historic Board of Aldermen’s Chambers at St. Louis City Hall is currently considered a “health risk.” Last week, when the board held its first “in-person” meeting in nearly six months, they did so a few blocks away at the City of St. Louis Department of Health at 1520 Market Street. The health department building has something city hall, which opened in 1898, does not have.
“Our fabulous chamber has never been updated,” said 10th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer. “There’s no HVAC system. When we asked the health department, ‘How do we go back to in-person meetings in the chambers,’ they said, ‘Find another place to meet.’”
Vollmer was interim board president from June until last week, when newly-elected Board President Megan Green was sworn in.
The chamber has no duct work, no air conditioning, and no air filtration. Heat comes from the sun and radiators during the cold months.
The board has been meeting virtually for most of the past three years after the first wave of COVID-19 hit in 2020. The board did hold a few in-person meetings in the chamber this past spring, but stopped because of concerns about spreading viruses in a room that is virtually sealed off from the outside air.
“It’s historically where all of the big decisions have been made. I’d love to be back in there. It’s a great room, but also health is health,” Vollmer said. “We have our staff members and not just the aldermen, it’s having the public in the room also.”
During his tenure as interim board president, the city’s Facilities Management Division came up with a cost estimate for adding a full HVA system. It would cost nearly $1.2 million and take a year to install, Vollmer said.
Green’s chief of staff told FOX 2 on Monday that she would have an update later this week on a much cheaper, “portable” system, to be installed as early as next month with “n-person meetings to resume here shortly thereafter.
A City of St. Louis spokesman added that St. Louis contractor Integrated Facility Services (IFS) would be installing eight air purification units to protect attendees at future meetings in the historic chamber.