Port Authority awards $1.7 million in grant funds from Lemay casino

Civil War Museum awarded $500,000 by Port Authority; MEAAA applies for funding, but does not receive a grant.


The St. Louis County Port Authority last week awarded grants totaling roughly $1.7 million to various organizations in Lemay using funds received from the new River City Casino.

Seven organizations received a combined $1,755,408 from the Port Authority’s Community Reinvestment Fund.

The county hopes to spur economic development and job creation in Lemay, where Pinnacle Entertainment’s casino opened in March at the former National Lead and National Imagery and Mapping Agency sites.

Pinnacle agreed to pay the county $4 million a year to lease the casino site. For the next five years, 75 percent of that annual lease payment will be reinvested into Lemay through a series of grants to qualifying organizations that request funding.

“We didn’t do this by ourselves,” County Executive Charlie Dooley said last week during a ceremony for award recipients at Heine Meine Field. “Lemay citizens are heavily invested in this process … That’s the exciting part about it. It’s the citizens of Lemay saying ‘This is what we want. This is what we support. Would you help us?’ That’s what this is all about.”

He added, “And I’m excited about it be-cause it makes sense. We’re going to see great opportunities with this.”

Organizations that received awards last week included:

• Missouri Civil War Museum, $500,000 — The group’s funding request was granted in full to renovate the old military post exchange and gymnasium at Jefferson Barracks to create a Civil War museum that’s scheduled to open in time for the 150th anniversary of the war next April.

• Lemay Housing Partnership, $415,000 — The organization requested $900,000 to increase the number of homes it repairs and the amount spent per home, to become a counseling organization for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, expand its for sale program, create affordable rental housing, pay off a loan to the St. Louis County Economic Council and create mixed office space with affordable rental units above.

The Port Authority recommended funding the group’s home repair program to in-crease the amount spent per home from $5,000 to $11,000 and increase the number of homes served each year from 12 to 30, for a cost of $180,000.

The Port Authority also recommended $45,000 to hire a full-time program manager, $35,000 to hire a full-time project manager, $35,000 to make the executive director a full-time position, $20,000 for a part-time administrative assistant, $20,000 to update office equipment and technology and $80,000 to repay the loan to the SLCEC.

• Lemay Baseball Association, $326,408 — The group requested $109,000 to re-pave the front and back parking lots at Heine Meine Field.

The Port Authority recommended funding the association’s entire capital improvement program, including $85,162 for new fencing, $96,100 for new bleachers and $145,146 for new pavement at the field.

• Lemay Development Corp., $275,000 — The organization requested $1.63 million, including $50,000 to develop a streetscape concept plan, $1.5 million to acquire land and demolish properties at Lemay Ferry Road and Bayless Avenue, $30,000 to establish an Urban Redevelopment Corp. and $50,000 for professional assistance to manage redevelopment.

The Port Authority recommended $30,000 to fund the Chapter 353 Urban Redevelopment Corp., $65,000 a year for three years to hire a development professional and $50,000 to update a market study.

• Lemay Child and Family Center, $195,000 — The center asked for $195,000 to pay off a $115,000 loan from the SLCEC and update older sections of its facility, including new flooring, lighting and an improved security system.

The Port Authority recommended full funding.

• Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation, $40,000 — The foundation requested $500,000 to plan and design a new Ulysses Grant museum at Jefferson Barracks.

The Port Authority recommended a feasibility study be conducted for the project.

• Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation, $4,000 — The foundation asked for $99,500 to connect Jefferson Barracks to the existing U.S. Grant driving trail and to create educational and directional markers for the trail in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The Port Authority recommended providing matching funding to any St. Louis County Parks Department funding if the department oversees the content, placement and installation of the signs.

The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging also applied for the first round of Community Reinvestment Fund dollars but didn’t receive a grant last week.

The organization, which provides Meals on Wheels and other services to St. Louis area senior citizens, requested $270,000 for a new South County Senior Center, including two years’ rent and the purchase and installation of new kitchen equipment and furnishings.

But the Port Authority denied the request because the MEAAA had not picked out a location for the proposed senior center.

The organization currently rents space at Occasions Party Place on Gentry Avenue in Lemay.

“We’re ready, willing and able to sit down and work with them,” SLCEC President and CEO Denny Coleman told the Call. “We just felt uncomfortable giving out an award for a building when there is no building yet.”

Coleman encouraged the MEAAA to re-apply. Funds will become available again next month, and applications are due by Dec. 1.

The next round of grants will be awarded early next year.

But 6th District County Council Vice Chair Steve Stenger, D-south county, be-lieves the MEAAA should’ve been among the first groups to receive funding.

“I’m extremely happy to see the funds making it back into the community, but I’d really like to see our seniors taken care of,” Stenger said.

“MEAAA gives back to people who contributed a great deal to our community. To see them not receive money is troubling,” he added.

Stenger, whose district includes Lemay, said he also was concerned the Port Au-thority did not seek his input when deciding which organizations would receive grants.

But John Gamache, MEAAA Director of Planning and Development, said the organization was not “shut out” by the Port Authority and planned to resubmit its application this fall.

In fact, the Port Authority was scheduled to meet with the group this week to discuss the proposed senior center, Gamache added.

“They are very supportive,” he told the Call. “They just wanted to have a better idea of what our actual costs would be. But we’re still talking with them.”