County voters may eye new versions of two measures nixed in November

County also seeks stimulus funds for two south county malls

By BURKE WASSON

After denying four of five ballot measures in November, St. Louis County voters could be asked in April to approve new versions of two such proposals rejected in the last election.

County Executive Charlie Dooley has asked the County Council to resubmit a $120 million bond issue to voters in the April 7 election.

In November, the $120 million bond issue Proposition I received 252,226 “yes” votes and 244,131 “no” votes. Though the bond issue received 50.78 percent of votes cast, the measure failed because it required a four-sevenths approval, or 57.15 percent.

County officials are eyeing the April election for the bond issue as it would be the last time in 2009 that the measure would need a four-sevenths majority to pass. After April, any ballot measure would require a special election, which would take a two-thirds majority to pass.

Proposition I would have funded capital projects like a new family courts building, renovations to the county’s court building, construction of a new animal shelter and expansion of the county’s crime and health labs. Additionally, county officials are considering asking voters in April to approve a 0.1-cent sales tax to fund an $80 million countywide emergency-communications system. The proposed tax would generate an estimated $15 million per year.

The county’s Blue Ribbon Commission, a collection of three County Council members and local leaders appointed by Dooley, recommended in December that the 0.1-cent sales tax be placed on the April 7 ballot.

In November, more than 55 percent of voters rejected Proposition H, which included the countywide emergency-communications system being proposed for funding in April.

Prop H was a proposed 1.85-percent use tax on all out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000 for the purposes of “enhancing county and municipal public safety, parks and job creation and enhancing local government services.”

The use tax received 278,474 “no” votes and 224,215 “yes” votes.

While Dooley is waiting for St. Louis County Municipal League Executive Director Tim Fischesser to develop a plan to pass the 0.1-cent sales tax before he takes a position on it, the County Council must meet a Jan. 27 deadline to put any proposals on the April 7 ballot.

However, Dooley could request a court order to place a proposal on the April ballot after that Jan. 27 deadline. He succeeded in doing so with the unsuccessful Prop H, which was placed on the November ballot after its August deadline.

In the meantime, the Blue Ribbon Commission and county officials already have asked for the support of police and fire chiefs in supporting any sales tax geared toward a new countywide emergency-communications system.

County officials have said a new system is needed by 2012, when the Federal Communications Commission has imposed a deadline for local governments to make improvements to such equipment.

In case a sales tax to fund such a system fails or is not placed on the ballot, county officials have asked the federal government for $100 million to fund a new emergency-communications system among the 95 projects that county officials requested as part of its $1.8 billion request for federal economic-stimulus funds.

The 95 projects would result in the creation of an estimated 57,360 jobs in St. Louis County, according to the county’s “Ready to Go” Action Plan for Sustainable Economic Recovery.

The county currently has more than 600,000 jobs, which includes the loss of more than 5,700 jobs in the county from March 2007 to March 2008.

This total does not include the estimated 1,500 jobs cut this year from the Fenton Chrysler South plant.

While the bulk of the county’s economic-stimulus request is for county services, some proposals would fund private, municipal and school-district projects.

County officials have asked for $105 million in federal funding for four Metro transit agency projects.

These include $50 million for Metro transit operating support, $45 million for Metro rehab/preventive maintenance of light-rail alignment, $5 million for a Metro regional data infrastructure upgrade and $5 million for Metro’s purchase of rolling-stock replacement.

Some south county projects identified by county officials as in need of federal funding include: $40 million for the redevelopment of the Crestwood Court shopping mall, $40 million in infrastructure improvements for South County Mall, $30 million for Lemay redevelopment at Interstate 55 and Weber Road, $24 million for the Jefferson Barracks Museum’s Citizen Soldier program, $22 million for replacement of the Kennedy Recreation Complex in Concord, $16.3 million for the South County Government Services Center, $7 million for Lemay Community Center enhancements, $6.95 million for Gravois Road Bridge replacement, $6.2 million for Bayless School District facility projects, $2.9 million for the Lemay Child and Family Center, $1.5 million for the historic renovation of Bee Tree Park in Oakville and $800,000 for Lemay Housing.

County projects included in the $1.8 billion economic-stimulus request are: $100 million for a new countywide emergency-communications system, $92.3 million for a new county family courts building, $30 million for green upgrades to the St. Louis County Administration Building, $20 million for county emergency shelters, $19.5 million for county sidewalk connections, $18.3 million for a county parks enhancement package, $15 million for the Department of Public Safety to demolish unsafe structures, $14 million for a new secure County Records Center, $8.5 million for County Police crime laboratory improvements, $8.5 million for the county’s middle-class home-improvement program, $6.6 million for the Department of Public Safety to reduce crime recidivism, $6.5 million for a countywide intelligent transportation system and $2.5 million for county green cars.

Funding that would benefit publicly governed entities from the county’s economic-stimulus request include: $80 million for Webster Groves High School addition/modernization, $16.5 million for the city of Clayton’s public-safety facility, $12 million for Clayton Elementary School improvements, $7.75 million for the city of Webster Groves’ concrete street rehabilitation, $6.2 million for Bayless School District facility projects, $6 million for Clayton High School improvements, $4.2 million for the Brentwood Fire Department and $4.2 million for a Kinloch Fire Protection District station.

To make their case to the federal government for economic-stimulus funds, county officials plead in their proposal’s executive summary: “This is a critical juncture for St. Louis County. The need for significant investment in aging infrastructure and the current economic and housing crises are working to tip the scales against the future success of the county … Now is the time, before our capacity erodes any further, to invest in St. Louis County and secure the greatest benefit of our scarce resources.”