County shifts more road and bridge decision-making to municipalities
By: Michael R. Smith
The St. Charles County Council’s decision Monday, July 9, now requires 10 cities to tell the county highway department what services to perform in their municipalities, and for the highway department to spend only up to the total funds those cities give the county for such work.
Through a revenue-sharing plan the cities have had the county provide road maintenance and repair projects such as snow plowing, roadside mowing, and pothole repair. The county paid for the services through road property tax funds received from the cities.
The 10 affected cities are: Cottleville, Flint Hill, Foristell, Dardenne Prairie, Josephville, New Melle, Portage Des Sioux,St. Paul, Weldon Spring, and West Alton.
County administrators this year proposed changing the way the highway department provides the services because they said some of the cities received more than they would have if they had had to purchase those services individually.
The cities are concerned that under the new plan their road property funds won’t cover the same level of service they have been receiving, or that they will use more of their municipal budgets to make up the difference.
However, Don Boehmer — head of the county’s intergovernmental affairs office and part of the team that crafted the new plan — said County Executive Steve Ehlmann instructed him to create a proposal that would not overburden the cities. He said that other state and federal funds also exist that the cities can obtain for road projects.
“This is a great contract,” Boehmer said. “(The cities) choose the services. If they can find a cheaper source, they can use it.”
The cities will now select the services they want from a menu of maintenance and repair options. The services they select will be capped by the total road funds each city gives the county.
District 1 councilman Joe Cronin cast the lone dissenting vote in the council’s decision. “There’s a lot of uncertainty here because the costs (to the cities) aren’t known,” Cronin said.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann said county personnel are available to meet with the city representatives to help them understand how the change may impact their budgets. “We’ll be glad to sit down with any of the cities anytime.”
The new contract takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.