© 2023 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

St. Louis County Council trims funding for MetroLink security — for now

The St. Louis County Council approved three charter amendments earlier this month. One would provide the council with more authority over the county budget.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council approved three charter amendments earlier this month. One would provide the council with more authority over the county budget.

The St. Louis County Council has voted to temporarily withhold some of the county money that goes to the region’s Bi-State transit agency in a quest to improve security on the MetroLink light rail line.

The council’s action is in response to various violent incidents in recent months on or near the rail line, including one that resulted in the fatal shooting of a county health department employee.

All six council members present Tuesday night voted in favor of a bill withholding $5 million from the county’s funding for Metro security. That’s a fraction of the county’s overall scheduled spending of $157 million this year to help fund all Bi-State transit operations.

Council Chairman Sam Page, a Democrat from Creve Coeur, said the council doesn’t want to harm Bi-State operations but is sending a signal that it wants action.

The St. Louis County Council
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council

“What we’ve asked the county police leadership and the Metro leadership to do is to come together and come back within the next 90 days and present their plan for security on Metro and a plan for cooperation and a plan to work together," Page said.

He may get support from his political nemesis, County Executive Steve Stenger.

A spokesperson said Stenger will be studying the bill closely before deciding whether to sign it. But aides signaled that he is likely to go along with the council as long as the bill doesn’t hurt public safety or the county’s bond rating.

The county’s allocation to Bi-State includes money for a key bond payment due Oct. 1. That bond paid for some of the MetroLink construction.

Council changing county procurement process

The council also gave first-round approval to a bill that revamps the county’s procedures and requirements for awarding contracts. But Page said more changes may be made in the measure before a final vote.

The bill’s major provisions include ending the county’s longstanding requirement that companies bidding on county projects must have apprenticeship programs. Labor unions long have backed that provision, but some critics say it often blocks small businesses – including those run by women and minorities – from bidding on county contracts.

Page was among several council members who pointed to a Stenger-administration study that highlighted racial issues with the county’s apprenticeship mandate. But some are seeking a compromise. Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray unsuccessfully proposed a revised bill that would have required that minorities make up at least 25 percent of the participants in apprenticeship programs.

The council earlier had removed other provisions that had raised vigorous objections from labor leaders for months.

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.