CLAYTON — St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas put the brakes Tuesday on a request from County Executive Sam Page to provide 18 county police officers to patrol MetroLink in the city of St. Louis.
And he said he’s also considering more cuts to Bi-State Development, which operates the light-rail line. Trakas has been a vocal critic of the development agency’s slow progress to improve safety on MetroLink.
Taulby Roach, Bi-State’s president and CEO, could not be reached late Tuesday.
The request for the county to help the city with securing MetroLink had been the first specific proposal to be made public involving the county helping the city to reduce crime. It would have been funded by $1.8 million generated by the county’s Proposition P sales tax approved by voters in April 2017.
That $1.8 million was a line item in a bill that would appropriate $317 million next year from the county’s largest fund of tax revenue, the general fund. That bill was before the County Council on Tuesday for a vote that would have advanced it to a final vote next week.
But Trakas, who carries out the chairman’s duties as presiding officer, unilaterally tabled the bill without comment.
He also tabled without comment a vote on a bill that would appropriate $42.9 million raised by the county’s transportation trust fund. That fund is historically split between the county and Bi-State, but Trakas said he was weighing changes that would divert more money toward county transportation projects.
Trakas said in an interview before the meeting that he was likely to hold back the general fund spending bill because he believed there could be other ways to pay for the 18 officers, including asking the city to pay for them or taking the money out of Bi-State’s budget.
Bi-State annually receives about half of its budget from St. Louis County; this year it asked the county for $164.3 million.
After the council meeting, Page said in a statement texted to a reporter that he agreed with Trakas.
“Extra security on Bi-State trains and platforms should be part of the transit budget and not be paid for out of the general fund or Prop P,” he said in a statement. “Crime and public safety on MetroLink is important to St. Louis County residents. They need to know when they travel into the city, they will be safe on our trains.”
Reducing Bi-State’s budget to pay for patrols would put the proposal in line with Page’s initial proposal outlined in a letter to Mayor Lyda Krewson on Sept. 12, in which he said the county would pay for the extra detail by withholding $2.4 million in funding for Bi-State.
The agreement would increase the county’s contribution to 62 police officers; the city provides eight.
The council also did not vote on a much-discussed proposal by council members Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, and Mark Harder, R-7th District, to allow the state Department of Conservation to hold archery hunts of deer at county parks. Each scheduled hunt would still be subject to county approval. The council advanced the matter last week without dissent, but Harder said on Tuesday it had to be held a week to work out a “slight glitch.”
A similar measure failed earlier this year, but the two council members, who represent most of west St. Louis County, said deer overpopulation has become a greater problem since then, and the Audubon Society said the deer’s grazing has undermined its efforts to conserve trees and shrubs.