St. Louis County Council Approves Partial Bi-State Funding But Wants Better Transit Security | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Council Approves Partial Bi-State Funding But Wants Better Transit Security

Oct 9, 2019

This story was updated at 2:49 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2019 with comments from Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach. 

The St. Louis County Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to send the Bi-State Development Agency about two-thirds of the money it requested for its annual budget.

The council is holding back on handing over $60 million of the $164 million allocation until its members see an updated transit safety plan from Bi-State, said council presiding officer Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County. 

Bi-State, which oversees Metro trains and buses, has until the end of the year to come up with a security strategy that both the council and county police department approve. 

“It basically requires that they get their act together from a security standpoint,” Trakas said.

The transit agency has already made some security changes, said Taulby Roach, Bi-State's CEO. Two weeks ago, it added a new security team to MetroLink, he said. 

Roach also said the three police departments involved with the system — in St. Louis County, St. Louis and St. Clair County in Illinois — are communicating more about how to provide public safety on transit. They now meet on a bi-weekly basis to discuss crime on the trains and buses. 

"We think things are getting better, but we still have work to do," he said.

Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, cast the lone vote opposing the Bi-State funding. He thought the council should have withheld more money from the organization — only agreeing to pay in quarterly chunks — until security on the transit system improved. 

“I’m not comfortable with the money that we approved. I think we need to have more accountability in place with Bi-State and with Metro,” he said.

Several people have been shot in and around MetroLink stations since the beginning of the year.
 

Anti-corruption measure passes

The council also voted 7-0 to establish a new firewall between county officials and vendors seeking to do business with the county.
 

The policy — referred to as the “cone of silence” — prohibits contractors from contacting county officials after they have submitted a bid for county work. The ban is lifted once the contract is awarded.

Some exceptions have been included to allow for contact between county officials and vendors during the bidding process, particularly when a vendor is trying to clarify the parameters of the work needed.

Contractors had complained that an original proposal, put forward by County Executive Sam Page, was too restrictive and would inhibit their ability to submit accurate bids for work.

The policy is a direct response to the legacy of disgraced County Executive Steve Stenger. Stenger went to prison last month for giving out county contracts in exchange for campaign contributions. 

Follow Julie on Twitter: @jsodonoghue

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