The St. Louis County Port Authority is holding off on commissioning a study about regional governance of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Andrew Ruben, outside legal counsel to the county Port Authority, said pumping the brakes on the study signals that talks of alternate governance structures are intensifying among regional leaders.
“In terms of next steps, we wanted to take a pause to allow that conversation to happen, really to determine if the Port Authority remains the best party to issue an RFP like this,” he said.
The Port Authority began discussions about a study of regional governance as the city of St. Louis, which owns the airport, seemed poised to privatize its operations. Then last month, in a surprise move, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson decided to pull the plug on the exploration of airport privatization. That step came just a day after the Port Authority issued a request for proposals for the study.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has supported looking at a regional approach and said elected officials need to have a broader conversation about the airport’s future in a public venue, where there can be open debate.
He said the one thing he’s learned over the past year is that no one really knows what’s happening with the airport. He hopes the Port Authority can help inform clearer next steps.
“Their role in this whole thing would be to get us some facts and let us know what the possibilities are and what other people have done,” he said. “If they want to make a recommendation, that’s fine, but the important thing is just give us more information.”
Ehlman said one option would be to bring up regional governance in the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which he is a member of.
He said another path is for state representatives to take up a bill in Jefferson City.
“Whether it goes anywhere or not, at least there’s an opportunity for people on both sides to show up and argue for and against,” he said.
The Port Authority will discuss when — or if — it will put the study back on the table at its meeting next week.
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