Newly-Elected Councilman Aims to Restore Budget for Two-Officer Cars

Also, St. Louis County Council action on Better Family Life, raises and a special birthday

Michael Calhoun
January 09, 2019 - 4:17 am

(Brett Blume/KMOX)

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CLAYTON (KMOX) -- St. Louis County's former police chief -- now, elected county councilman -- is making good on his promise to introduce legislation to restore millions of dollars that could fund two-officer patrols.

It's $4.8 million cut from the general fund that would've gone for 50 new officers.

Council members, during budget talks in December, said with the pace of hiring and training for hundreds of other positions too, the appropriation probably wouldn't have been spent in 2019 anyway. They also offered to approve more money mid-year, if requested.

But new councilman Tim Fitch says that's no way to plan.

"That would be like you buying a house today and not knowing if you have the money for the rest of the year to make your payments," he told KMOX after the meeting. "That's the position the chief is in right now."

Fitch also wants to make sure there's no lessening of the boost from Proposition P, a sales tax passed last year.

"If you cut the general fund and then supplant that with the Prop P money, that's exactly what the voters were afraid of," he explained. "The ones that were naysayers that were like, 'I know what's going to happen here. We're going to give you new money, and you're going to take the old money away.'"

He said his legislation will go to committee for discussion, instead of holding an initial vote next week.

Meantime, the council expressed unanimous support for buying up the site of the former Sappington Garden Shop for a new Southwest police precinct.

The $3.4 million contract was fast-tracked to approval.

NORTHWEST PLAZA DEAL TOSSED

After letting it languish on their weekly agenda for more than a year, Council members finally punted on approval for Better Family Life to consolidate into new offices at the Crossings at Northwest development.

Sam Page
Council Chairman Sam Page has been especially suspicious of deals involving the former shopping center.

In this case, however, he says geographic fears weighed supreme.

"I hope that Better Family Life can work with council members from north county who were concerned about making sure those services were available close to the people who needed them and that they wouldn't need to travel to Northwest Plaza to receive them."

He says there's probably a compromise to be found.

When asked whether the delay caused a hiccup in providing support, Page said: "The services have always been provided. The services were never interrupted."

Better Family Life's James Clark was recently recognized by the U.S. Attorney General with a "Project Safe Neighborhood" award for reducing violent crime.

ALMOST A DECADE, NO RAISE

Page asked an unusual question of his colleagues at Tuesday's meeting. Listen:

Page told KMOX after the meeting that his point with that rhetorical question was because he's gotten calls from concerned employees.

Page wasn't sure what -- or who? -- is making them worry.

Hazel Erby
Councilwoman Hazel Erby noted only some public safety workers have gotten raises; it's been quite awhile for the bulk of the county's employees.

"Going ten years or so without a pay raise, increase for our employees is, just, it's difficult, I'm sure," she said. "It's hard to swallow."

Mark Harder
Seeming impatient with a lack of forward motion, councilman Mark Harder asked about getting a pay study completed.

"We need to get that done, so we can see the gaps and attack the biggest gaps first in this pay situation," he said.

Harder recommended a committee meeting to hash out how to pay workers more within a tight budget.

BIRTHDAYS AND RETIREMENTS

Adolphus Watson is celebrating his 100th birthday and 80 years of marriage. He's the last surviving solider of the all-black 351st Field Artillery Regiment that fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He worked in construction for over 30 years and retired in 1981.

The council passed a resolution commemorating his birthday.

Also honored with resolutions were two retiring area police chiefs -- Manchester's Timothy Walsh and Des Peres' Keith Krumm.