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Inauguration of St. Louis County elected leaders

Tim Fitch is sworn in as councilman by Judge Dean P. Waldemer during the inauguration ceremony for St. Louis County elected leaders at Memorial Plaza outside of the St. Louis County Police Department in Clayton on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch is proposing that the county forbid its new employees from living in the city of St. Louis, saying it's only fair because the city forces county residents interested in working for the city to move there.

"They're wrong of course for having a residency requirement at all, but if they're going to force St. Louis County residents who want to work for the city to live there, then St. Louis County should consider the same thing," Fitch said. "Their arguments as to why it's good for the city are the same arguments I would have as to why it's good for the county."

Fitch asked the county counselor Wednesday to begin drafting an ordinance that the county council could consider that would require St. Louis city residents who get hired for St. Louis County government jobs to move to the county within six months of their hire.

"I have a problem with the city telling county residents that they have to live in the city," Fitch said.

He's hoping other governments, including St. Charles County, Jefferson County and Illinois leaders adopt similar measures.

"I would rather not have any type of residency requirement, but if the city forces county residents to live there in order to be employed there, then it's no different," he said.

He said he will back off of the idea should the city repeal its residency requirement.

"I hope it helps them make a decision and a change to their residency policy because I'd love to drop the legislation," he said.

Supporters of the city's residency requirement say having police officers and other employees live in the city they work keeps them more invested in the community they serve.

The city's charter requires all employees to live within its boundaries. Police and firefighters won the right to move out after seven years of service, though those provisions are being called into question.

The Public Employees Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen held a hearing on the topic Wednesday. Should the Board of Aldermen approve a proposed residency repeal, it would have to be approved by voters in the next election in 2020. 

City leaders have recently tried offering residency waivers to attract police recruits to a department that is 135 officers short. City voters also approved raises for its officers.

Christine Byers is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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