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Sat Mar 30, 2019, 03:28 PM

America's Center $175-million expansion stalls out at St. Louis County Council

The plan for a $175-million expansion for the America’s Center Convention Center in downtown St. Louis has stalled – after NAACP leaders raised concerns about employing minorities and county residents on the construction site.

Councilwoman Hazel Erby tabled her bill (#73) on Tuesday night that would authorize the county to continue contributing $6 million annually in bond payments over 40 years, using funds from a 3.5 percent hotel tax passed in 1990. The City of St. Louis and the county currently pay a combined $12 million annually on the debt used to construct The Dome, that’s connected to the convention center – and the state matches it with $12 million. However, those commitments expire in 2021, and the expansion can only move forward if both the city and county agree to continue making those $6 million annual payments. The city passed the necessary legislation earlier this year, and County Executive Steve Stenger supports the plan.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said Bill 73 does not ensure that the county’s minority participation goals would be enforced on the convention expansion project. Because funds from both governments are at play, Pruitt is pushing the council to establish regional goals for employing minority workforce and contractors on the project.

“As a council you have the full authority to negotiate a better deal, and you have a fiduciary responsibility to allocate county funds in a way that benefits county residents,” stated Pruitt in a March 18 letter to the council.


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