St. Charles County | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Charles County

A view of Highway K in O'Fallon in 1970.
Jim Karll

To grasp St. Charles County’s dramatic growth, one only needs to view two photos taken 47 years apart by Jim Karll.

Both show Highway K in O’Fallon, just south of Interstate 70. The first photo, taken in 1970, shows a remote road amid farmland and woods. In the second, Highway K is packed with traffic and flanked by shopping centers and businesses.

St. Charles County’s population skyrocketed from 90,000 in 1970 to almost 400,000 today — a pace unmatched anywhere else in the state. It also has the second-largest bloc of GOP voters in the state and attracts lots of businesses. But a few things threaten its upward trajectory, namely public transportation and a lack of diversity.

St. Charles County

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann will try for a fourth term in 2018, he announced Monday.

If he wins, the Republican would become the county’s longest-serving official.

Construction workers finish up work on the new Stone Creek Elementary School in the Wentzville School District on July 25, 2017. It's one of two new schools that will open next week.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Signs along the road leading to one of the new elementary schools in the Wentzville School District advertise newly constructed homes for sale. It’s something district officials say they closely track, along with hospital birth records.

The data tells them that the district’s rapid growth — the quickest in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — won’t level off soon. To keep pace, Wentzville is opening two elementary schools this month.

Wentzville’s late to the expansion party in St. Charles County, where the population has been growing steadily for three decades.

Paul Knittel | flickr

The assessed value of residential homes in St. Louis County has shot up an average of 7 percent since 2015 — the county’s strongest showing in almost a decade. St. Louis’ numbers beat the county: a nearly 12 percent increase in the same time frame.

Experts say it’s a sign the region has recovered from the economic downturn of the late 2000s.

House for sale
Paul Sableman | Flickr

The St. Louis County Assessor's office has started informal conferences with property owners concerned their taxes are too high.

Assessor Jake Zimmerman says the average county property value has gone up roughly 7 percent, compared to the last review a couple of years ago. He attributes the increase, in part, to a hotter real estate market, with properties selling faster and for more money.  

Scott Leahy speaks in favor of the Best Choice sex ed curriculum during a meeting of the St. Charles Board of Education on Monday, May 22, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Charles Board of Education voted Monday night to keep a sex education curriculum tied to an anti-abortion group, breaking with recent decisions by a few other St. Louis-area public school districts. 

Pinwheels for child abuse victims in St. Charles County. April 18, 2017.
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

In St. Charles County, 181 children in were abused and neglected last year. Those were the reported cases. At least one study has found that one in four children suffer some form of abuse or neglect in their lifetimes.

Red and blue, circular logo of the American Cricket Academy & Club.
American Cricket Academy & Club

A cricket field opening Saturday in St. Charles County signals how much the sport is growing in the region.

The venue at BaratHaven Park in Dardenne Prairie will, for the first time, give the American Cricket Academy and Club of St. Louis a dedicated home to practice and play.

Local enthusiasm for the sport has been largely driven by Indian and other immigrant communities, said ACAC founder and executive director Ajay Jhamb.

FDA | file photo

Updated Sept. 27, 1 p.m. to include county council approval - St. Charles County Council is the most recent local government to move forward with a prescription drug database.

Members Monday night unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance to establish the program, which would share information with similar initiatives in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

Officials hope the program will be operational by Jan. 1.

Richard Orr
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome Democrat Richard Orr to the program.

Orr is the Democratic nominee for the 23rd state Senatorial District, which takes in a portion of St. Charles County. He’s a buyer and instructor for a kayaking company. Orr is squaring off against Republican Bill Eigel, a businessman who won a highly competitive GOP primary earlier this month. (Eigel appeared on Politically Speaking earlier this week.)

Mike Carter, Anne Zerr and Bill Eigel are running for the St. Charles County-based 23rd District Senate seat.
Courtesy of Carter and Eigel's campaigns and House Communications

There are probably few legislative races in Missouri with stakes as high as the GOP primary for the 23rd Senatorial District.

The St. Charles County-based district has been vacant since former Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey resigned nearly a year ago. And the race to replace him features three candidates with vastly different philosophies and political experience. It’s one of several competitive state Senate primaries in the St. Louis area, and perhaps the one where the end result could matter quite a bit.

Jacob Norlund / Flickr

The following questions recently came into Curious Louis from someone who wanted to be anonymous: Why do we (St. Louis residents) pay our personal and real estate taxes directly to Gregory F.X. Daly and not a department? How does that compare to other cities?

Daly, the collector of revenue for St. Louis, receives the questions so frequently that his office has set up a webpage to explain.

Missouri Department of Transportation St. Charles County camera

Updated March 2 with rescheduled demolition — The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to close the section of Interstate 64 leading up to and crossing the Missouri River between St. Charles and St. Louis counties for at least an hour on Monday, March 7. 

Weather permitting, the department will finish demolishing the 1930's era Boone Bridge. The bridge is no longer needed now that traffic has been moved to the adjacent 1980's era bridge and the new Boone Bridge. 

Ameren's power plant in Labadie is the largest in the state.
Art Chimes

Updated 5:00 p.m., Sept. 24 with vote result - The Missouri Air Conservation Commission has voted to designate parts of Franklin and St. Charles counties as "unclassifiable" for sulfur dioxide pollution.

Thursday's vote follows a recommendation by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources earlier this week.

Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

The first I-70 interchange west of the Missouri River is getting an $18 million update. Construction starts next spring to replace Fifth Street’s partial cloverleaf interchange with a diverging diamond.

It’s the latest project in a decade-long plan to improve the main corridor through the St. Louis region’s fastest growing county.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, presides over the Missouri Senate on Wednesday. Dempsey missed the final two days of session to attend his daughter's college graduation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The top Republican in the Missouri Senate is stepping down.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey announced on Friday he will resign from his St. Charles County-based Senate seat next Friday. In a lengthy statement, the Republican legislator cited a return to the private sector and a desire to be closer to his wife and three children.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

A new bridge over the Missouri River is opening Monday morning, underscoring how much St. Louis and St. Charles Counties have grown together over the past three decades.

State and local officials gathered Thursday to cut a ceremonial ribbon on the new eastbound span of the I-64 Daniel Boone Bridge.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann told an audience of about 50 people that the bridge is the 7th river crossing built between the two counties in the last 37 years.

Katelyn Petrin / St. Louis Public Radio

As the weather gets warmer this month, St. Louis gains two more places to enjoy springtime outdoors. St. Charles County is cutting the ribbon of a new park on Monday, while St. Louis County debuted a new park last week.

The St. Louis region grew slightly in 2014, but the city dropped by about 1,000 people, according to new Census data.
U.S. Marine Corps Flickr page

The latest U.S. Census Bureau data shows the St. Louis region has grown little in population since 2010, but also has remained fairly stable.

First responders throughout St. Charles County will now use one emergency radio communications system, allowing them to talk to each other when responding to events.
Courtesy St. Charles County Police Department Facebook

Nearly all first responders throughout St. Charles County are now able to talk to one another.

That's because the county has finished building a new, $34 million emergency radio communications system. Before the new system was recently put in place, municipalities throughout the county had their own, separate radio systems.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 8 p.m. on Monday with news about Schneider repaying her loan.)

Vicki Schneider got on the phone earlier this year with Bob Onder after he loaned himself $200,000 for his state Senate bid. 

She said she asked a fairly simple question of one of her opponents for the St. Charles County-based 2nd District seat: "Do you want me to help you spend that?"

“And he just laughed,” she said.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Running for a seat in the Missouri Senate is tough. It takes months of door-to-door campaigning, an endless dash for cash, and a thick skin to win a competitive race. 

But Chuck Gatschenberger and Vicki Schneider may have a secret weapon: Both candidates in the race for the western St. Charles-based 2nd senatorial district had their campaign logos and faces imprinted on their trucks.

Schneider said she wrapped her truck because she “wanted people to know that they’re voting for someone that is just like them.”

File photo

Three St. Louis area counties would focus on road and highway construction if a 0.75 percent transportation sales tax increase passes later this summer. 

This week, four area counties plus St. Louis turned in their preliminary lists of projects that could be funded over a 10-year period with the transportation tax. They're working with East-West Gateway to formulate a list of projects to send to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

(via Flickr/frankjuarez)

Educators and politicians in St. Charles say they have a plan in place to reduce the number of chronically absent students in the city’s school district. 

Starting next year, the district will implement a truancy court, a program designed to get families the resources they need to keep students in school as often as possible.

(Flickr/Creative Commons user SuperFantastic)

For the third year in a row an effort to create a smoking ban in St. Charles County is underway.

The St. Charles County Council began considering a bill Monday night that would restrict indoor smoking, but exempt any establishment that requires customers be at least 21-years-old. That provision would mean people could continue to light up in many bars and gambling areas.

(scroll down to ready a copy of the bill)

Councilman Joe Cronin is the bill’s sponsor and said a ban is critical to protecting public health.

conner395 / Flickr

Starting today the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department is rolling out a new tool aimed at helping authorities locate residents who have wandered away from caregivers.

St. Charles County residents can purchase a wristband with a radio tracking device that law enforcement can then use to locate people who have wandered away from their homes.

Deputy Sheriff Steve Case said the new system has proven effective in other parts of the country.

Ground Broken On New Boone Bridge

Jan 3, 2013
MODOT

Ground was broken Thursday on the new Daniel Boone Bridge just west of Chesterfield.

The $111 million project will replace a 75-year-old span over the Missouri River and link St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.

MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger says the bridge is the final project to make I-64 a true, interstate-quality, highway.

“We’re thrilled today to start on the project,” Hassinger says. “The design is about 90 percent complete and you’re going to see people starting work on the ground this month. The plan is that we’ll have the new bridge open in 2014.”

SuperFantastic / Flickr

Representatives for Ameristar Casino say they will file a lawsuit Tuesday morning to block a November ballot question on whether or not to ban smoking in St Charles County. 

According to casino representatives, if passed, the ban could put it at a disadvantage because patrons at other casinos in the state can light up when they gamble.

(via Flickr/Missouri Department of Transportation)

Updated at 3:30 p.m. MoDOT has opened the westbound lanes of 364 between Harvester and Mid Rivers Mall Dr.  

Updated at 2:35 p.m. The eastbound lanes of 364 between Harvester and Mid Rivers Mall Dr. are now open. A piece of equipment used to paint stripes is malfunctioning, which will delay the opening of the westbound lanes until after rush hour tonight.

Our earlier story:

Drivers in the St. Louis region can now take Route 364 all the way to Mid Rivers Mall Dr.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

MAP scores released

The St. Louis school district could be a year away from regaining partial accreditation.  Missouri's Annual Performance Reports, or MAP scores, have been released today.  They show that St. Louis city schools have met seven standards, including one academic standard. 

Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says they're looking for sustained improvement over time.

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