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St. Louis-area projects get funding in massive state Senate plan

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Jamestown Mall heading for demolition

Jamestown Mall in North St. Louis County on Friday, June 25, 2021. The former shopping center appears to be heading for demolition at an estimated cost of $10 million after plans to turn the building into a warehouse were opposed by Councilwoman Shalonda Webb and area residents. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Budget writers forwarded a $2.9 billion spending plan to the Missouri Senate Monday, adding in $6 million to tear down the dormant Jamestown Mall and another $23 million for a new law enforcement center in St. Louis County.

The massive list of projects is the Missouri Legislature’s answer to how the state will spend billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid heading into the new fiscal year on July 1.

The budget for the American Rescue Plan Act money includes pet projects of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as a slew of new programs sought by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

The Senate inserted $15 million to removed condemned buildings in St. Louis, $2 million for a sports complex in Chesterfield and $2.5 million to upgrade the Amtrak station in Kirkwood.

It also removes funding to begin building the cross-state Rock Island pedestrian and bicycling trail that has won plaudits from park supporters, Parson and tourism officials.

“I think every senator has something in this that will please them,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The $6 million set aside to demolish the vacant and blighted north St. Louis County mall, combined with another $6 million approved by the St. Louis County Council last month, could transform the site into a “shovel ready” site for redevelopment.

The $23 million for St. Louis County police includes money for a regional intelligence operations center, a new property control facility and a training complex that includes a firearms range.

“Obviously the news today is good and we’re hoping the money is finalized for the projects,” said Doug Moore, spokesman for County Executive Sam Page.

The latest outline now awaits action in the full Senate. Pending approval, it would then need to be merged with the House version, meaning its final contents could change.

The unanimous vote in the Appropriations Committee came after Hegeman urged lawmakers to act quickly because the deadline to get the budget to Parson is Friday.

“We are running short of time,” Hegeman said.

The loss of funds for the bike trail was a disappointment to Rock Island Trail Inc. President Mac McNally. But, he said the group backing the conversion of a former railroad line is not giving up.

“We feel it is a premier project that needs to be funded,” McNally said.

Parson’s version had sought to spend a total of $3.1 million in APRA funds. The House earmarked $2.5 million.

Although much of the Senate and House version are the same, the Senate removes spending for a number of high-profile projects.

The measure contains no money to expand the state’s ports, including $25 million sought by Jefferson County to build a container shipping facility on the Mississippi River.

The Senate also removed money for the construction of a new, $88 million training academy for the Missouri State Highway Patrol from the plan and said “no” to a plan to give grants to entertainment venues hit hard by the coronavirus-related shutdowns in the past two years.

The Senate panel also nixed a $9.5 million plan to install Wi-Fi at Missouri State Parks.

At the same time, the Senate boosted spending for local tourism agencies to $50 million, up from $10 million approved by the House. That money could be used to boost marketing of local events.

Among the largest outlays is $419 million for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to oversee the replacement of lead water lines.

Lawmakers also are considering spending $250 million to expand broadband internet access throughout the state.

The proposal includes $149 million to assist local mental health agencies serve more patients. It would require matching dollars from potential recipients.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol would receive $104 million to build a new crime laboratory in Jefferson City.

Another $78.6 million would go to build a health laboratory that would be used by multiple agencies, including the Department of Health and Senior Services.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis campus is in line for a makeover. The budget sets aside $40 million in matching funds for a so-called “Campus of the Future” involving multiple new buildings and demolition of old facilities.

St. Louis Community College would receive $20 million to build a health sciences center at the Florissant Valley campus.

St. Charles Community College could get $18 million for the construction of facilities focusing on job training.

The legislation includes $33.6 million for work at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, including a new covered arena and the acquisition of adjoining land for upgraded camping facilities.

Cities and counties also could tap into a $250 million community development fund for local projects. The program requires a municipality to match the amount they would get from the state. The House had sought $50 million.

Small businesses and nonprofit groups would be in line for matching grants worth a total of $25 million and $20 million, respectively. That’s more than double what the House had approved.

Originally posted at 4:10 p.m. Monday, May 2.

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