South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Council allocates ARPA money for mall, attorneys

Council approves $6M to help fund mall’s demolition
Jamestown Mall, as seen in June 2017.

Jamestown Mall is closer to coming down after the St. Louis County Council unanimously passed a bill April 26 that allots $6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to demolish the building. 

The council also approved a bill 5-1 to assign $700,000 in ARPA funds to pay for 12 new attorneys and seven support staffers in the office of county Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell through this year. Sixth District County Councilman Ernie Trakas voted against the measure while 5th Disitrict County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy was absent. 

“I don’t see the need to move this bill tonight. … Where’s the money going to come from for these jobs next year,” Trakas said. “The closest thing to neverending life on Earth is a government program. That’s what we’re talking about here.” 

Third District County Councilman Tim Fitch, who supported the measure, acknowledged that another request for ARPA funding would have to come before the council again next year to cover anyone hired as a result of the bill’s passage. He added that it would be made clear to anyone hired that there is a possibility their positions may not continue after the ARPA money runs out. 

“This is a million-dollar-plus increase to the county budget when it’s all said and done whether it’s next year or the year after. I just can’t get there,” Trakas said. “I don’t believe there’s any urgency right now to pass it and I’m not inclined to increase the budget a million-plus dollars.” 

Bell told the council that his office needed the relief, even if it is temporary in the long run.

“We all recognize that crime has increased. We all recognize that law enforcement is needed. More manpower on the street, that means they’re bringing more cases to us. … With cases like homicide, sex cases, domestic violence cases – those cases tend to go to trial,” Bell said. “St. Louis County has gone from a suburban county to more of an urban county.” 

Bell said any new hires would help with the backlog of cases created when the courts were closed for much of 2020 and parts of 2021 because of the pandemic. 

“We get about 12,000 referrals from law enforcement a year of cases that we prosecute. So imagine an entire year getting tacked onto the next year … and now all these trials and cases are coming due … and if we’re gonna be able to keep up then we’re gonna need the bodies,” Bell said. “If it’s about public safety and making certain that offenders are held accountable, then you’ll support it. And if it’s not, then so be it.” 

Jamestown Mall

The council also approved a bill allocating $6 million in ARPA funds to demolish the abandoned Jamestown Mall in unincorporated North County. 

“(The mall) has been grossly … mismanaged under … at least three county executives,” 7th District Councilman Mark Harder said. “This is what this kind of money should be used for. And I think it will be a diamond in the rough property once it’s all cleaned up.”

Fourth District Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, who sponsored the bill, has pushed for a mixed-use development at the property. The mall is in Webb’s district and has seen past proposals for a logistics park, among other things. 

“I don’t believe a day has gone by that I haven’t talked about Jamestown Mall. For more than a decade … our community has had to live with this continued unsafe, grotesque, humiliating, demoralizing property,” Webb said. “I believe that people get the wrong impression of North County. I believe that people think that we’re less than, that we are your dumping ground. … But we are committed … to robust solutions … to bring back our community. … We have waited a long time. District 4 family, our community has waited long enough. ” 

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