Federal gas tax dollars go to St. Charles museum for transportation exhibit

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by Chris Nagus / News 4 Investigates

KMOV.com

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 16 at 12:51 PM

(Is This Why We're Broke?) -- $300,000 for a transportation exhibit sounds nice, but with the federal budget in shambles, it sounds like a waste.

Plus the people who applied for the grant agree the money could be used for way more important things, like actual roads.
 
An old St. Charles County restaurant is now the Heritage Museum and soon it will have an expensive exhibit offering visitors a glimpse at the transportation history of St. Charles County.
 
Some experts in Washington DC think it’s a waste.
 
Tom Schatz is the president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
 
He told News 4 “there are much higher priorities for our federal gas tax money than a local heritage museum.”
 
Schatz says the $300,000 for this small museum comes from a fuel tax and in Missouri there are better uses for those funds.
 
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) even highlighted this project in his 2011 Wastebook which highlights wasteful spending.
 
“Given the needs, especially in the state of Missouri for better roads and better bridges, these projects are really not essential” said Schatz.
 
So you might expect St. Charles County to disagree, after all they applied for the grant.
John Sonderegger says St. Charles County would much rather use $300,000 to keep going on the Page Avenue extension.
 
“Is it a good use of tax dollars, no it's not we would rather use that tax money and use it on roads” said Sonderegger.
 
But federal rules say 10 percent of transportation fuel dollars must go to transportation enhancement projects and those include exhibits like the one coming to the Heritage Museum.
 
Plus if St. Charles County didn't apply for it, someone else would get the money.
Sonderegger told News 4 “this is what it's earmarked for by people in Washington, we bid on it, and got it, here it is.”
 
News 4’s Chris Nagus asked Sonderegger what he thinks about an Oklahoma Senator calling out the Heritage Museum in his book.
 
He told us, “change your rules, you are coming up with a book, they created them wasteful spending projects, change the rules.”
 
News 4 tried to get Senator Coburn on camera but his staff said he was too busy.
 
The total cost of the project is actually $375,000, $300,000 comes from the federal grant and $75,000 comes from the St. Charles County parks fund.
 
The exhibit will arrive at the Heritage Museum later this summer.
 
If you have seen something that has you asking “Is this why we're Broke?” let Chris Nagus know on his KMOV Facebook page.

 

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