Michael Calhoun

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Metro transit is threatened with a $6 million cut in funding, by a St. Louis County Council member upset about a controversial parking garage deal.

It’s the time of year when the county passes along funding it’s collected from a pair of half-cent mass transit sales taxes. The total is expected to be around $90 million, Metro C.E.O. John Nations said Tuesday.

Democratic county councilman Steve Stenger, however, would like to dock that total by $6 million.

He recalls the reports from a now-withdrawn whistleblower lawsuit which allege Metro paid $5.8 million to purchase the garage at Hanley and 64/40 from a campaign contributor and developer, and then the county paid Metro $5.9 million, in what was billed as routine funding, the next month.

“The current leadership of Metro was not part of the transaction, but I, as a councilperson, would like some reassurance that transactions like that one are not going to happen again,” Stenger said, adding that, in his opinion, the county should recoup that cash.

County council chairman Mike O’Mara was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, and so couldn’t comment on whether he agrees with his colleague. It’s not clear whether a majority of the council would side with Stenger.

Nations’ response:  “Any questions Mr. Stenger has, any members of the county council, or anyone in general, we’re more than happy to respond at any time.”

The C.E.O. also noted recent news of Metro bus and light rail ridership reaching record highs and setting national trends.

“Our efficiencies really lead the country,” Nations said. “Our maintenance division was rated the best in North America. We’re putting a reliable and efficient product on the street.”

He cautioned that 80-percent of the agency’s funding comes from city and county taxes and that its fiscal year begins July 1st, leaving little time for changes.

Stenger acknowledged that his idea could hurt those who rely on mass transit, but he said he also can’t shake that the “garage was under no analysis a good idea for tax payers. Simply wasn’t.”

He suggests Metro sell the garage to make ends meet.


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