ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - Movement toward a St. Louis City crime reduction plan and higher minority job inclusion requirements helped push a financing plan for a new NFL stadium closer to approval Thursday.
The Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee spent three hours questioning city officials and stadium backers and commenting on the proposal before voting 7 to 2 in favor of an amended substitute bill for Board Bill 219. It will now go to the full St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Sponsors Ald. Tammika Hubbard and Ald. Jack Coatar see the stadium construction project as critical to jobs for city residents. Amendments to strengthen minority and women participation in the building process were introduced by 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French.
The plan now calls for a goal of at least 37.8 percent of all labor hours for minorities, 23 percent of the hours for city residents and nearly 7 percent of the hours for women. The amendment added requirements for training opportunities and funding to supervise the contractors to make sure they meet the goals. French’s amendments also set penalties if the goals are not met.
French had called on St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to mount a crime reduction plan for the city before the city committed to its share of financing a new stadium. Thursday the north side alderman said that plan was within a day or two of completion. It will target 15 neighborhoods with violent crime problems.
Opponents to the city’s use of tax dollars for a new stadium tried to pin down supporters on the total cost of the plan at the end of 35 years. They also complained that the Regional Sports Authority had failed to send anyone to answer questions about the RSA’s role in running the current stadium and a new stadium.
Some aldermen have objected to a lack of transparency by the RSA over the more than ten million dollars spent on design and planning for the Riverfront Stadium project.
Stadium Task Force leader Dave Peacock offered a low key approach during the meeting indicating he understood objections to the plan.
“I don’t see this as a big victory. It is a milestone. I’m appreciative of everybody who was able to support it,” Peacock said after the committee vote, adding that he still respected Alderman Scott Ogilvie, who voted no. “I know where (Ogilvie) is coming from.”
Ogilvie warned that the new stadium, if built, would pull more than $10 million “out of general revenue every year.” He also predicted it was fiction to believe the city would not be responsible for cost overruns or stadium maintenance and operations.
When asked if the Missouri Legislature could pass legislation refusing to fund the plan, Peacock replied, “I don’t worry about what I don’t control and I don’t worry about trying to guess what is going to happen.”
The revised financing plan uses the state’s credit rating to help lower interest rate costs.
If the city funding source of game day revenue falls short, the state would pick up the shortfall. On the other hand, if the revenue is larger than estimates, the state would benefit.
“Obviously, it is risk for the state and that was what this came down to is where the risk is borne,” Peacock said. “But when you look at the projections, even in a downside scenario, they hold up pretty well; they hold up very well.”
Opponents to the plan, including St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and State Rep. Michael Butler, held an early morning news conference at City Hall outlining their objections.
“As a state elected official, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the people are heard and that the financing for the stadium does not happen with state dollars,” Butler said.
Treasurer Jones noted, “We had an ordinance on the books that allowed people a vote and if this is a true regional project, let’s bring all of the counties of the region to the table to share the financial burden of this project.”
The board bill now goes to the full Board of Aldermen for a second reading Friday. Board President Lewis Reed said he would call a special meeting so the final debate and vote could be held before the Christmas break.