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Task force taps firm for stadium site cleanup

Task force taps firm for stadium site cleanup

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ST. LOUIS • Gov. Jay Nixon’s two-man stadium task force has picked a politically connected and much-scrutinized St. Louis firm to study toxic conditions on and under the footprint of a proposed new football arena.

The public board that runs the Edward Jones Dome, where the St. Louis Rams now play, tapped Environmental Operations Inc. last week, an attorney for the Dome’s board said Wednesday.

The Dome authority, under the direction of Nixon’s task force, is hiring consultants to plan a $985 million riverfront stadium. A successful effort could keep the Rams from leaving for Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Dome attorneys updated the board on stadium planning. General Counsel Bob Blitz, who also serves on Nixon’s task force, told the board that they were assembling the “best team in the United States.”

“We are on schedule to meet every demand the NFL has put on us,” Blitz said. “We will qualify for a new stadium.”

Kevin Fleming, an attorney at Blitz’s firm, listed companies recently hired.

Most, he said, had already been publicized. But the addition of Environmental Operations was new. Fleming said the task force is still negotiating with the company; payment figures were not available.

After the meeting, Fleming said Environmental Operations was the low bidder among about 10 responses to a request for proposals. The company will study cleanup necessary on the site, apply for state tax credits and conduct the cleanup itself, if needed. Fleming said the firm is working on the first phase of the job and will write proposals should more be required.

Environmental Operations was the subject of a Post-Dispatch investigation two years ago. The newspaper exposed lax state oversight of tax-credit-funded brownfield projects, largely won by Stacy Hastie, Environmental Operations’ chief executive who has given thousands of dollars to state and local politicians.

The company, the newspaper found, had designed nearly all of the state’s high-value cleanups, chosen which companies could bid on the work, submitted bids to itself and hired itself for jobs.

Last year, former Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich ripped the brownfield program, giving it the lowest possible grade.

Hastie pointed out on Wednesday, through consultant Richard Callow, that Schweich found “no evidence of illegal wrongdoing.”

Hastie called the stadium project “challenging,” and his firm the most qualified in the Midwest “for the complex remedial work that construction on (the) industrial north riverfront is going to require.”

Fleming, the attorney, said stadium planners knew of such concerns regarding Hastie’s firm. But they were looking for a consultant with “lots of experience with brownfields.”

“People were aware of the controversy,” Fleming said. “We ran it up all the flagpoles, and it passed.”

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