Bel-Ridge loses track of $1.9 million from thriving TIF project

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KPLR) - A successful TIF project in north St. Louis County led to $1,899,589.37 meant for schools and the fire district. However, the Village of Bel-Ridge lost track of it for more than a year. Residents claim a board member recently answered their questions with threats of arrest.

Fox 2 called all eight trustees and the chairperson at the end of November, but no one will talk about this. It’s a TIF project near I-170 and Natural Bridge, which brought development like the highly visible airport parking complex. It also brought nearly $2 million that should’ve been sent to St. Louis County more than a year ago to pay for education and fire protection.

“When I was a trustee in 2013, I knew there should be roughly $1.2 million and our village clerk informed us there was only $298,000,” said former trustee Julia Anderson.

Anderson said Bel-Ridge eventually found the money. The village was not supposed to still have it. Fox 2 obtained an email detailing how the board needed to get the money to the right place. The accountant warned, “This check cannot be cut until there is sufficient funds.”

“There’s such bad accounting practices in the office right not and clerical work that they don’t know what’s going on,” Anderson said.

“Why is it that people can’t come up and question and ask things like this,” said Bel-Ridge resident Manson Graves.

Graves said Trustee Mary Mans filed a restraining order against him for asking questions.

“This trustee said I threatened to shoot her at a meeting,” Graves said, reading from the court filing against him.

Anderson was recording that meeting. That video later became evidence. The judge dismissed the restraining order, saying Graves may have been rude, but he “stayed behind the podium” and “did not make any verbal or physical threats.”

Fox 2 called Trustee Mans and visited her home to get a comment. She was not available.

Graves said he’ll continue asking questions at meetings.

“The people need to know where the money’s going. This is our tax money,” he said.

While no one from Bel-Ridge will talk about this, Fox 2 confirmed with St. Louis County that the nearly $2 million in TIF money did make it from Bel-Ridge to the county for proper disbursement. The Normandy School District will get the most out of the pot.