St. Louis County Prosecutor questions math on Family Courts project

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CLAYTON, MO (KPLR)-Officials broke ground Tuesday at the new site for St. Louis County Family Courts, but the event sparked controversy over the $130 million dollar price tag.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch is excited about breaking ground at the new Family Courts site, but not about how County Executive Charlie Dooley’s administration handled financing the project.

“The only concern I have is the deceptive way in which the finances were used in this. As much as it’s needed, the administration intentionally understated the cost of the project,” said McCulloch.

He says the administration withheld $30 million from the budget over the course of two years, so Dooley could say the following at the ground breaking.

“We did it without increasing taxes for the citizens of St. Louis County.”

Dooley’s administration says McColluch is wrong.

Voters approved a $100 million bond for the project in April of 2012. The administration says it didn`t learn the project would cost another $30 million until May of 2013.

McCullough says, “Nobody is that bad at math. If they were putting a project together, honestly, they wouldn’t be off by $30 million.”

When asked why the cost increased, Dooley told FOX 2, “Well, one of the things, once we got into the project it was much more deterioration than we had anticipated. So we did some things on that. And the cost up there’s no question about that, but we also saw some additional needs electrical outlets things that we didn`t anticipate.”

The administration tells me it borrowed the extra $30 million for the project through a special bond in July of 2013 that will be paid back out of the general fund over the course of 25 years.

“Our facility must be safe secure and state of the art,:” stated Dooley.

McCulloch says the process to achieve that left other areas of the budget underfunded.

“And that’s just the deceptive management we’ve seen in the county and that’s something that absolutely has to change,” added McCullough.

Dooley is involved in a contentious August primary race for St. Louis County Executive. McCullough has announced support for Dooley's opponent, Steve Stenger.

The Family Courts project will be finished in 2016.