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Metrolink train

A westbound MetroLink train pulls into a tunnel in this 2007 file photo. Photo by David Carson,

As the St. Louis County Council sat down to conduct a public hearing on safety issues on MetroLink, they were provided a six-page document signed by County Executive Steve Stenger, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. 

The proposed memorandum of understanding between the three jurisdictions and Bi-State Development, the agency that oversees MetroLink, provided the framework for establishing a joint task force to police the light rail system. 

It was a non-binding agreement, often described as a goal. It contained no specific information about the cost of the task force or the number of officers who would be a part of it. "This is not an agreement," said Councilman Ernie Trakas. "It is a wish list." 

But it left little doubt about who would make most of those decisions: the leaders of three jurisdictions — not Bi-State. 

The agreement also prohibits Metro decreasing "its level of publicly funded security services, Rail-Related Public Safety personnel, or Contract Security personnel without the urging of the task force." 

Bi-State President and CEO John Nations said at the hearing that he was not a part of the discussions that created the memorandum. He said Bi-State had received it, but that he had not had time to fully review it. 

The memorandum included a blank space for Nations' signature.  A Bi-State board meeting was scheduled for Friday morning to discuss MetroLink security.

In Thursday's hearing, Tom Curran, Stenger’s senior policy adviser, said the memorandum was “not a legally enforceable document."

But later that day, a Stenger spokesman insisted the document was in fact enforceable.

“Whether it is legally enforceable in a court of law is not an issue in this matter,” said county spokesman Cordell Whitlock in a text message. “It is not a contract that would be enforceable in that way. It is an agreement between multiple jurisdictions and Bi-State and is enforceable because the three major funders of Metro are signatories on the agreement.”

Whitlock said the agreement would be enforceable through the “funding and budgetary process. If they want to continue operating they must follow the agreement and keep the line safe.”

A statement from Stenger’s office said the agreement was far from a "wish list" or a goal. "The memorandum of agreement is a comprehensive plan for security on Metro that is the result of collaboration and a great deal of effort on the part of the chief executives and law enforcement officials of each of the funding jurisdictions, which provide the vast majority of the funding for Bi-State," the statement reads.

Stephen Deere is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.