The St. Louis Port Authority has designated $500,000 to help clean up portions of Ferguson and Dellwood.
After a grand jury decided not to indict former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, portions of the two cities were looted and burned. Several months later, some of the burned-out structures still remain in ruins in Ferguson and Dellwood.
In a news release sent out Tuesday morning, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger announced that $500,000 would be designated to help remove debris from the two cities.
The money will come from the county’s Port Authority, whose board is appointed by the St. Louis County executive. The authority is part of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, the joint economic development agency for St. Louis and St. Louis County.
In an interview, Stenger said the port authority's funds could end up demolishing around 29 buildings. While some building owners may have insurance to take care of clean-up costs, Stenger said others are in worse shape. And he added some structures "pose a threat to community safety and maybe community health" -- especially if they have asbestos.
"I think in some cases, businesses were waiting for their insurance companies to provide funding for the demolition," Stenger said. "And in some cases – and these are the case we’re trying to help – businesses just don’t have enough money to take that first step of demolition. They just don’t have it. So we’re trying to provide them with that money so that they can get the demolition underway."
Asked if the county would assist in rebuilding the buildings, Stenger replied: "We’re not there yet."
"We may provide some type of assistance in the way of economic development assistance – advice, counsel and those kinds of things," Stenger said. "But at this point, I don’t anticipate that the county will be providing any funds for buildings to be rebuilt. Although applications can be made to the St. Louis County Port Authority, as I said earlier."
In any case, Stenger said, tearing down some of the burned buildings is an essential part of Ferguson and Dellwood moving on from the aftermath of the grand jury decision. After all, he said "you can’t obviously remove the building and you can’t rebuild without demolishing the building that’s already there."
"So this is the first step. And I think that procuring the $500,000 for this first step is really important," Stenger said.
Bidding for the cleanup work is set to begin this week. Stenger said the region's economic development officials have estimated the total cost of demolition will probably be around $300,000, with the rest of money going to landscaping and beautification projects.