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Approval of bond issue finalizes crowded April ballot for St. Louis voters

Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis city fire trucks will be retrofitted to reduce their diesel emissions.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday put a $25 million bond issue on the April ballot. Now, elected officials have to go out and convince their constituents to support it.

Aldermen approved, and Mayor Francis Slay signed, the additional borrowing on Tuesday. It was the last day to certify items for the April ballot.

An attempt in August to authorize $180 million in borrowing received 61 percent of the vote, short of the two-thirds majority required by the city charter. But Alderman Scott Ogilvie, the 24th Ward Democrat, said the pitch for the current bonds is much simpler.

"If we let voters know it’s basic services, there’s not an ounce of fat in this thing, and it’s not a tax increase, I think voters will respond and vote yes."

He said that messaging would help the bond issue break through on a crowded city ballot that will include a renewal of the city earnings tax, two proposals from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, and a property tax increase request from the St. Louis Public Schools.

Funding in the proposed bond issue breaks down this way:

  • $14.75 million for the St. Louis Fire Department, including funds for 10 new fire trucks and 7 new ambulances
  • $2.1 million to retrofit a city-owned building as property custody storage for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police. That is the only thing remaining in the old police headquarters building.
  • $1.3 million for repairs to the city's aging recreation centers. These funds were originally directed to repairs to the municipal garage at Clark and Tucker streets.
  • $2 million to draw down matching dollars for bridge repair
  • $500,000 to make repairs at a variety of city buildings, including City Hall
  • $500,000 for corrections facilities, including new locks
  • $2.5 million to upgrade the computer system used by the assessor's office. The system was last updated in 1984.
  • $300,000 for additional computer upgrades
  • $1 million for four trash trucks

Demetris Alfred, the president of the firefighter's union, said the nearly $15 million will take care of the St. Louis Fire Department's more urgent needs. 
"What we’re going try to do is use the money to the best of our ability, put it where it really needs to be, and then maybe we can do something different to shore us up," he said. The department has identified about $68 million in capital needs.

Alfred said his members would be coordinating with fire chief Dennis Jenkerson about the best campaign strategy.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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