STLPR’s Melody Walker discusses ongoing airport-privatization saga
With the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport still “up in the air,” as host Don Marsh put it on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Melody Walker joined the show to offer analysis of the latest developments.
“Privatization is one of the most polarizing words I think we’ve had in quite a while here in St. Louis, and it’s a little bit of a misnomer,” said Walker, who is the station’s economic development reporter. “I think when people hear ‘privatization,’ we think, ‘We’re going to sell the airport off to some private company.’ Well, that’s not what’s happening.”
She emphasized that the city “will always own the airport” regardless of the outcome of the current effort. But the city might “enter into a partnership with a private company” to operate it through a Federal Aviation Administration program that former Mayor Francis Slay applied for during his last month in office.
Walker has been following the story for months – from delays related to contracting with a consulting team to explore privatization, to the exploration process itself, to those challenging the efforts. As she has reported, some of the criticism concerns Slay’s connection to one of the companies vying to become the private partner.
When Marsh asked about the substantial costs involved in exploring privatization, Walker cited the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger, who recently obtained documents via a Freedom of Information Act request.
“He says it adds up to about $800,000 a month, and the city is not paying this – Rex Sinquefield has stepped in actually at the request of Mayor Slay and has agreed to pay all these fees for these consultants up until a deal is made,” Walker explained. “And if a deal goes through – and if they strike a good deal – everybody will get paid, and then the money will then be paid back to Mr. Sinquefield by the city from the money they make on the deal.”
Listen to the full conversation:
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