St. Louis County Council approves pay raise for jail employees
Many St. Louis County jail employees will receive a $3-an-hour raise after a unanimous vote by the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday.
The increase applies to non-salaried hourly employees. It comes after repeated calls to increase the pay for jail workers from staff and members of the county’s jail advisory board. The jail is understaffed, and the increase is designed to retain employees and hire new ones.
“I have 70 hours of overtime right now,” corrections officer Martha Wheat said before the vote Tuesday. “We are all busting our feet, we’re working hard.”
The county will use more than $5 million from federal coronavirus relief funds for the pay increase.
County jail staff have said that the jail has been short-staffed over the past year and that there’s an urgent need to raise pay.
“Three dollars is great, it’s a beginning,” said the Rev. Phillip Duvall, St. Louis County Justice Services advisory board member. “But there are several other things and tools that acting Director Scott Anders is going to put in place, and we’ll do our dead level best as an advisory board, as voices to share with you what we’re doing [in the jail.]”
County Executive Sam Page signed the bill Tuesday afternoon.
Convention center questions
The county council also voted 5-2 to ask the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership to consider alternative proposals to help fund the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Center expansion project.
The resolution calls for the partnership to release a report within 60 days to examine alternatives and feasibility. It also would prevent the council from appropriating any funds for the project until it receives a report.
The resolution introduced by Councilman Ernie Trakas follows discussions between council members and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission over how the county would help fund the expansion project before its planned opening in fall 2023.
“We’re being asked to write a check for $100 million to finance this project,” Trakas said. “I think it’s incumbent on this body to learn prior to writing that check whether or not this project as proposed can be completed with the current funding or are we looking at additional funds after we’ve spent the hundred million.”
Work on the downtown St. Louis convention center has been delayed because the county has yet to sign off on bonds to help finance it, convention officials have said. Funding for the $210 million project would be split between the city and county.
It follows a 2019 agreement between the county and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to upgrade the center and use 35% of extra funds from the county’s hotel-motel tax to go toward a north county recreation center. Commission President Kitty Ratcliffe said in a letter last week to county and city leaders that without the county bonding money, the center may not be able to hold the National Baptist Convention in September 2023.
But revenue from the hotel tax dropped significantly last year with no excess funds available. Council Chair Rita Days has held the bill approving the bonds until a commitment to fund the north county center is finalized.
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