St. Louis County seeks to borrow more money as cost of 2 police stations continues to rise | Policy

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CLAYTON — St. Louis County plans to borrow even more money to build two new police stations as the cost of construction continues to rise.

The estimated cost of new stations in Affton and northern St. Louis County was approximately $13 million in 2017 when they were first proposed.

The cost is now estimated at around $38 million: $17.6 million for a new North County neighborhood and $20.2 million to demolish an old Affton neighborhood and build a new station.

On Friday, County Executive Sam Page’s administration asked the county council to approve a $20 million bond issue that would raise $15 million for the two constituency stations and $5 million for dollars for the county’s share of a new stormwater pumping station in the Howard Bend area of ​​the Missouri River floodplain.

Officials said Monday that the extra money for the two police stations had to take into account a plethora of changes over the past five years, not the least of which is a volatile market reeling from inflation and supply chain issues. And two city councilors who lobbied for the projects to be completed said they were disappointed but not surprised.

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“Of course the pandemic was delayed for two years, and now we are adding inflation issues, supply chain issues, labor issues. … It all came to a head,” said Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, a former county police chief who joined the council in 2019.

Fitch criticized what he called “bureaucracy” delaying the project – including inclusion targets for minority and women-owned businesses, which Page’s administration said project bidders did not had not reached. But Fitch said the current police quarters were decades old and needed replacing.

“We have no choice, the only other choice you have is to drop the project and that’s just not an option,” he said.

Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, who represents a mostly unincorporated portion of southern St. Louis County, including Affton, said he wanted “more information so I can take a informed decision”. But he added that the police station was “extremely necessary” and criticized what he called “unnecessary delay” for “a host of reasons”.

Trakas sponsored a recent ordinance loosening minority inclusion targets, and in 2020 sponsored a $10 million bond issue to support police stations, both of which were responses to Project Affton delays.

“Those two stations should have been completed by this point,” he said. “This money was approved long before the pandemic hit. The idea that we’ve never even innovated, let alone deeply disappointing.

Councilman Shalonda Webb, D-4th District, could not be reached for comment. The station proposed for the North County precinct would be located within its district.

If approved by the board, the new $20 million bond issue will mark the fourth time the county has borrowed to fund construction of the two police stations since 2017.

At the time, former County Executive Steve Stenger’s administration borrowed $13 million for new neighborhoods, including funding for a $1.2 million purchase of 6.8 acres at 11030 Dunn Road for the North County neighborhood station site. The county purchased the land from Christian Northeast Hospital; the police department currently rents an office near the hospital.

The county paid an additional $3.4 million in February 2019 for seven acres on Gravois Road, the site of the former Sappington Garden Shop, for the Affton Southwest Precinct station, and issued as many bonds to repay the general revenue fund.

Then, in late 2020, the county issued an additional $10 million in bonds, after updated projections raised the price to $26 million. Those responsible for administering the page blamed the Stenger administration for an inadequate estimate.

The additional $15 million requested by the Page administration for the stations would bring the total amount borrowed for the two stations to more than $41 million.

The county issued bids to demolish and build the precinct in early 2021, but by September had canceled them due to a lack of adequate bids. In February, the council approved an order by Trakas and Webb to relax inclusion requirements for participation of minority and women-owned businesses after procurement officials said police stations were on the mend. died partly because the general contractors who responded to the tender could not meet the four-year deadline. -former inclusion goals.

The shovels are still far from touching the ground.

Stephanie Streeter, acting director of transportation and public works, said the county plans to solicit bids again this week.

The 2017 estimate, Streeter said, did not include the costs of buying land, designing new neighborhoods or engineering fees.

“I don’t know who figured out what that money could buy, but it couldn’t buy the design, the land and the building of two neighborhoods – there wasn’t enough money for that,” Streeter said. . “And we tried to put 10 pounds in a 5 pound bag.”

Building codes have been revised, and the St. Louis County Police Department has since updated its requirements for building appearance and inclusion. More details on the requested changes were not available on Monday.

Paul Kreidler, budget director, said the bond issue includes an “unusual” 50% contingency to cover any cost overruns to ensure this is the last time the county will borrow for the project. Current estimates leave about $3 million remaining that can be redirected to other maintenance needs if not used, he said.

“We believe this will be the last piece to cover the whole project for the 1st and 3rd arrondissements and the best estimate is that we will have some left over,” he said.

The two police stations were started as part of Proposition P, a countywide half-cent sales tax approved in 2017 that was expected to raise nearly $50 million a year for the county. . But by early 2020, the county had pledged to overspend the fund, most of it on salaries for police and civilian department employees, leaving no surplus for new police department demands.

Fitch is sponsoring bills that would use some of the roughly $75 million remaining in federal pandemic aid to fund recent police demands, including $15 million to build a new county central precinct and facility. storage of evidence. A proposed Missouri budget on Gov. Mike Parson’s desk would match funding with another state dollar.

In December 2018, the County Police Department abandoned the former Affton Police Station it rented at 9928 Gravois Road after a roof leak was discovered which a department spokesperson said allegedly could cause mold. The compound temporarily moved 5½ miles southwest to a small space in a strip mall at 5030 Griffin Road, near Tesson Ferry Road.

Howard Bend Pump

The board originally approved the issuance of bonds to pay the county’s share of a special assessment to landowners in the Howard Bend Levee District to build a new stormwater pump.

The area included 13 plots in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, a county park, which officials said would be protected from flooding by the new pump station. The board approved a plan by Page’s administration to pay the $5 million upfront and issue bonds afterwards.

Kreidler said the plan allows the county to minimize borrowing costs because the county has a higher credit rating than the district.

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