ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–The board of aldermen pushes back a plan to issue $64 million in bonds to repair Forest Park and the city’s other 100 plus parks.
After more than an hour of vigorous debate, supporters withdrew the plan from the floor, assigning it to the “informal calender” to be reworked.
Helping swat down the bond issues, Comptroller Darlene Green made a rare appearance on the floor of the board, warning aldermen that now is not the time to take on more debt.
“In a downturn of economy that we are in now, I cannot support it,” Green said, “Our monies are not flowing freely. Our revenues are down.”
Southside Aldermen Fred Wessels also spoke out against the proposal, saying it might provide a lump sum of money up front, but leave the city struggling to pay for parks upkeep in the future.
“Is it a good deal? No it’s not a good deal,” Wessels said, “In my opinion, this is a total shaft job on anybody who has a regional park.”
The proposal, sponsored by Aldermen Joe Roddy, was designed to create a substantial infusion of money to address a long list of “deferred maintainance” projects at city parks. Several Aldermen, including Lyda Krewson, Craig Schmid and Steve Conway defended the plan.
Conway sounded the theme that the current “pay as you go” approach for parks improvements doesn’t address the backlog of repair projects that are needed.
Parks Director Gary Bess was also working the room, shaking hands with aldermen and trying to woo support. He shrugged off the defeat and vowed to go back to the drawing board.
“There’s improvements that are long overdue,” Bess told KMOX earlier, “We’ve been pecking away at it at a rate of about $3 million a year. And it’s time that we take a big bite out of those deferred capital needs.”
Bess says the money would be spent on fixing broken sidewalks, broken water fountains, closed restrooms, and playground equipment that no longer complies with modern safety standards.
Paying off the bonds would be funded solely through the existing revenue streams already approved by voters, Bess said. The primary sources of revenue to pay off the bonds would be the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1993, and the metro parks fund which was passed by voters in 2000. All the money in those two funds have been marked for parks capital improvements.
Bess says the annual cost of paying off the bonds would be $4.5 million. That means the city would be spending $135 million over 30 years in order to get $64 million now it can spend on improvements. In other words, the city would be spending $71 million more than it gets from the deal.
The plan called for having the group Forest Park Forever buy the bonds for Forest Park portion of the deal, and put the money the bonds earn in interest
back into the park.