After a long and bitter impasse, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and members of the St. Louis County Council are planning to provide a pay boost for nurses that treat county inmates.
The plan could get final approval from the council in the next couple of weeks.
Last year, St. Louis County voters passed a half-cent sales tax known as Proposition P. Most of the money went toward raises for, among other places, the St. Louis County Police Department. But corrections officers and nurses didn’t get the same raise. And that led those employees to lobby the council for months.
Stenger and the council agreed that the workers needed raises but disagreed how to pay for them. Council members wanted to use proceeds from Prop P. Stenger wanted to use the health fund. This week, the two sides came to a compromise: About $781,000 from Prop P funds will go toward giving Justice Center employees a raise. Of those funds, about $376,000 will be reimbursed to the Department of Health.
“This plan grew out of a compromise achieved during numerous meetings between our administration and members of the council with the goal of fairly compensating employees who work in an especially challenging environment on behalf of county residents,” Stenger said in a letter to the council.
The upshot is that corrections officers and nurses will get anywhere from a 10- to 16-percent raise. That’s gratifying for Kerah Braxton, who has spoken up during the council’s public forum for months.
“In the beginning, we didn’t know what to expect,” Braxton said. “But we knew a wrong had happened. And it was our opportunity and our responsibility to right a wrong. And we came to you all for help, and you did.”
County Council Chairman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, said the proposal should be approved in the next week or two.
Councill gives final OK to Sylvan Springs sale
Meanwhile, the council gave final approval to ultimately converting part of Sylvan Springs Park in south St. Louis County into more space for Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
The plan involves selling more than 33 acres of the roughly 70-acre Sylvan Springs Park to the federal government, which could prevent Jefferson Barracks from running out of room. The federal government will lease the land to the county for 10 years before burying veterans in the space.
Veterans have been pressing St. Louis County officials to sell part of the south St. Louis County-based Sylvan Springs Park for years. The county will get about $2.41 million from the sale.
The unanimous passage of the bill to sell part of the parkland prompted emotional responses from members of the council. Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-South St. Louis County, broke down in tears when recounting some of the veterans that are buried in the cemetery.
And veterans in attendance at the council meeting, such as Mike LeBlanc, stood and applauded once the final vote was tallied.
“I would like to really applaud the parks department, because they just do a wonderful job,” LeBlanc said. “Whenever we ask for something, they come through big.”
Page said he would like to use proceeds from the sale to expand St. Louis County’s parks or to improve existing ones.
“It absolutely should be segregated to the parks budget and used for future planning of parks — either new parks or improvements to the parks we have,” Page said.
The council placed a charter amendment on the ballot that would make it more difficult to sell or give away county parkland. A St. Louis County judge ruled today that the measure will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot — along with three other proposed charter changes.
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