County voters to consider Prop S next Tuesday

Stenger supports $100 million no-tax-rate-increase bond issue

By Kari Williams

Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, supports Proposition S, a $100 million, countywide bond issue that voters will consider Tuesday, April 3.

Prop S is a $100 million general obligation bond issue that would not require a tax-rate increase. As proposed, the bond issue would fund safety improvements at the County Courthouse and construct a new Family Justice Center.

The court bonds will replace bonds due to be paid in full by August 2013. The funds can only be used for the court buildings. A four-sevenths majority is required for approval.

“I think that it’s certainly a public work that the people of St. Louis County will all be free to access and use, which I think is good,” Stenger said.

The proposition does not call for a tax-increase, according to Stenger, because it would be a continuation of a tax levy that is currently in place.

A similar bond issue for $120 million was on the ballot in November 2008 and was rejected by voters. Stenger said the difference between the 2008 bond issue and the current bond issue is that now less funds are being asked for of the voters.

“At that time, I thought that … the additional $20 million was maybe asking a little too much,” Stenger said. “This one is less than that, so it’s a bit of a compromise.”

The county pays roughly $750,000 on average to keep both buildings running, according to Family Court Judge Douglas Beach.

“We’re not making major repairs or fixing things,” Beach said at press conference held March 20. “So the money that’s being thrown down the hole is not going to be recovered.”

The juvenile court also has asbestos on its lower two floors, according to Beach.

County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said at the press conference the escalators in the civil court building have been out of order more than they have been working for “the past several years.”

“Part of it is just age. It’s old, so it breaks down,” McCulloch said, “and it’s so old they don’t make the parts anymore. We actually had to have parts specially made for it because they’re not there anymore.”

Additionally, McCulloch said the “massive security system” in the courts are in buildings that were not built for security systems.

Julie Lawson, executive director of the Crime Victim Advocacy Center, said due to the current building structure, victims and offenders sometimes have to sit “shoulder to shoulder in the court room together.”

“It is terrifying for a victim of domestic violence, or assault, or assault and burglary or any crime to have to sit that close in proximity to the person who has assaulted her or perhaps burglarized them,” Lawson said.

The emotional and mental scars of being in such a situation do not go away, according to Lawson.

“These women and families and children need a voice that will speak for them, and I think that needs to be the voters,” Lawson said.

Judy Berkowitz, executive director of Kids in the Middle, said the items addressed in the bond issue affect everyone.

“I have neighbors who come through these doors every single day, I’ve been on jury duty … So thinking that it might not affect me personally is wrong,” Berkowitz said. “It affects every single one of us. and I’d like to make sure the parents and the children who walk through these doors are able to feel safe, are able to be safe …”