© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Long-delayed St. Louis County police precincts finally have a start date for construction

An architectural rendering shows a building with the words St. Louis County Police on the front. There are people outside the building and an American flag on a pole to the left.
Provided
/
St. Louis County Police
A rendering from M + K Architects shows the new building for the Affton Southwest precinct of the St. Louis County Police Department. A second new building, for the North County precinct, will look similar.

After years of delay, police officers in two St. Louis County precincts are getting new workplaces.

County Executive Sam Page announced Wednesday that work could begin as soon as Friday for the Affton Southwest precinct, with completion by 2023. In November, construction will start on a new space for the North County precinct, which is expected to be completed in early 2024.

Loading...

“In addition to making sure our police officers are well paid, well staffed and well trained, we need to make sure they have the equipment they need to be successful, and part of that equipment is a police precinct where they can process suspects and work together to solve the crimes we deal with in our community,” Page said.

Both units are currently working out of rented spaces that were retrofitted to be police precincts. Joe Patterson, the executive director of the St. Louis County Police Officers Association, said there aren’t enough desks or storage space for the officers assigned to those units.

“We don’t even have the space to hold a meeting with the community inside our own building,” Patterson said. “This will fix a lot of those problems.”

The two new buildings will cost a total of $27.6 million, with funding coming from Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax voters passed in 2017. Original cost estimates were much lower.

“In addition to making sure our police officers are well paid, well staffed and well trained, we need to make sure they have the equipment they need to be successful, and part of that equipment is a police precinct where they can process suspects and work together to solve the crimes we deal with in our community,” Page said.

Construction of the new buildings has been delayed, by the pandemic and politics. Design on the Affton Southwest precinct was completed before former County Executive Steve Stenger resigned in disgrace. But in October 2020, Paul Kreidler, Page’s budget director, informed the County Council that North County would be moving forward first, despite Affton Southwest being further along in the construction process.

At the time Kreidler told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Affton precinct was delayed because cost estimates had doubled.

Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-St. Louis County, eventually worked out a deal to advance both projects at the same time. Both the current and new locations of the Affton Southwest precinct are located in his 6th District.

Trakas said the county’s contracting requirements for minority or women-owned businesses also contributed to the delay. Three bids that came in after the pandemic, he said, had to be rejected because they could not meet the stringent MWBE requirements, which led him to push through a change allowing the county’s procurement officials to evaluate those requirements for each project.

Page said Wednesday that both projects will have 50% or more MWBE participation.

Trakas said he was “ecstatic” to have a groundbreaking finally on the calendar.

Councilwoman Shalona Webb, D-St. Louis County, did not immediately return a request for comment. The North County precinct will be in her 4th District.

Costs balloon

The council originally approved $13 million in bonds in 2017, then borrowed an additional $10 million in 2020. Earlier this year, the council authorized an additional $15 million of borrowing.

Doug Moore, a spokesman for Page, said initial cost estimates done by the Stenger administration “did not reflect what was actually needed by police,” and increasing the scope of the projects necessarily increased the cost. Pandemic-related delays and ongoing supply chain issues also pushed the costs higher.

“We are hoping for good weather and limited supply chain issues to remain on current schedule,” Moore said.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann 

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

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.