New $20 million county building with waterfall, imported tile

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by Chris Nagus / News 4 Investigates

KMOV.com

Posted on August 29, 2012 at 7:05 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 29 at 11:09 AM

(News 4 Investigates) -- During a time of budget cutbacks, do you think a new St. Louis County building needs imported tile and a two story waterfall?

News 4’s Chris Nagus got tipped off on this next story from a contractor who helped build the project.  He asked “Is this Why We’re Broke?”, so Nagus checked it out.

Stepping inside the new St. Louis County Public Health building is like stepping inside a posh hotel lobby.  There’s no question this complex is a step up from the old public health facility, but was everything necessary?

Mike Jones is St. Louis County’s senior policy advisor.  He defends expenses like the $90,000 water feature, the $300,000 spent on tile, the $126,000 spent on interior signage and the more than $160,000 spent on channel glass and handrails that give the building a sleek look.

Jones says the building’s location in Berkley, a predominately African-American community, likely leads to the expense questions.

“You will never get me to believe that someone would ask me about a waterfall in a public building in Clayton but in St. Louis I’m not surprised someone would ask about a waterfall in Berkley,” Jones said.

When asked by Chris Nagus if it was race-oriented that someone called News 4 about the building’s expense, Jones replied “I think so, I think so.”  And when asked if the building needed a waterfall and imported tile Jones told Nagus: “I challenge the assumption of that question, the caller who dropped the dime on this building would not have made the same call if this was Chesterfield and I find that offensive.”

Would you, as a tax payer, complain if this building was built in Chesterfield? Share your thoughts.

Jones said people in the area deserve an aesthetically pleasing building and there’s no question the $20 million building delivers.  The complex will house labs, vital records, and medical offices.

The winning bid was part of what’s known as design build construction which means the county told the bidders how much money they had, what the building needed, and it was up to the bidders to “wow” them.  The waterfall and expensive tile weren’t must-haves for the county but were part of the winning bid.

So Nagus asked if some of the extras could have been eliminated from that bid to save tax dollars: “If you do it like that you don’t negotiate the elements the winning contractor decided to solve problem with …. what we deal with is their meeting our requirements.”

In all fairness, Nagus told Jones if the county builds a future project in Clayton or Chesterfield that includes a waterfall he will do a story.

Jones also told News 4 the selected bid was one of the cheapest and it came in on time and on budget.

Have you seen something that has you asking “Is this Why We’re Broke?”

Let Chris Nagus know on his KMOV Facebook page or send him a message on Twitter.

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