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St. Louis Lambert International Airport

St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Thursday, May 17, 2018. Photo by Nikos Frazier, nfrazier@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Mayor Lyda Krewson and Comptroller Darlene Green are clashing again over a bond refinancing package for St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The mayor on Tuesday said she would sign the plan, passed by aldermen May 31, despite her concerns that Green gave an aldermanic committee information on expected interest rates and other details differing from that previously submitted to another city panel.

“The payoff (period) changed by 15 years, that’s a pretty significant change,” Krewson said at a meeting Tuesday of that panel, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

The board then voted 2-0 to again endorse the refinancing package after the mayor says she believed another vote was needed because the likely financial terms had changed.

Green, who sits on the board with Krewson and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, didn’t attend the session, called by the mayor. A spokesman for Green, Tyson Pruitt, said she wasn’t available.

Meanwhile, Green in an email to aldermen on Monday repeated her previous accusation that Krewson was delaying the refinancing measure to “cause hardship and harm” to the airport to “better the chances for privatization.”

The mayor has denied that. Krewson and Reed support considering the possible lease of Lambert to private operators; Green is opposed.

Green in the email also said there was no legal reason for the estimate board to take up the issue again.

The bond plan calls for about $93 million in outstanding debt to be refinanced at lower interest rates, with the savings used to pay off a new set of airport bonds of about $23 million.

Krewson, in a letter of her own to aldermen on Monday, said the comptroller’s office said in documents submitted to the estimate board in April that the expected interest rate would be from 1.79% to 2.8%.

But the mayor noted that Green’s office later cited a rate of from 2.7% to 3.9% in a briefing paper submitted May 15 to an aldermanic committee. Krewson also said the maturity date changed from 2034 to 2049.

Pruitt, Green’s spokesman, didn’t comment except to say that Green “disagrees with the mayor’s entire assessment.” Green’s April submission says the estimates included are preliminary and subject to change due to various factors.

Krewson said she would sign the bill because even the higher interest rates cited to aldermen were still lower than what the city is paying now on the bonds to be refinanced.

She said the debt will be stretched out 15 years longer than she preferred but that there would be more savings for Lambert and its airlines in the first few years of the package. The airlines cover much of the airport’s annual costs, including debt service.

Before the estimate board meeting, two key carriers at Lambert, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, sent an email to the mayor urging her to support the “comptroller-preferred option.”

Restricting lobbyists

Meanwhile, another Lambert privatization opponent, Alderman Megan Green, said Tuesday she will seek to ban the city from hiring state legislative lobbyists that also work for other clients.

Green, D-15th Ward, said her proposed ordinance, to be introduced Friday, is aimed at limiting conflicts of interest.

She said several lobbyists for the city also are registered to lobby for what she considers to be pro-privatization interests such as retired investor Rex Sinquefield and a committee he funds, Grow Missouri.

Grow Missouri paid for the city’s application to the Federal Aviation Administration to be given authority to look into privatization. Grow Missouri also is among the key firms advising the city on whether to seek private operators.

Grow Missouri is paying all advisory fees and will only be reimbursed for them and the cost of the initial application if a deal goes through. Some city aldermen critical of the process have attacked that arrangement as a conflict of interest.

Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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