State-of the-art rec center in north St. Louis sits in limbo over apparent political squabbling

State-of the-art rec center in north St. Louis sits in limbo over apparent political squabbling

State-of the-art rec center in north St. Louis sits in limbo over apparent political squabbling

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by Ray Preston / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 3:50 PM

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -- A state-of the-art recreation center in north St. Louis that cost taxpayers millions of dollars is sitting in limbo over apparent political squabbling.

The O’Fallon Park Rec Center, which cost $20 million to build, has all the bells and whistles, including indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, work-out rooms and a track.

But what it doesn’t have yet is an opening date.

Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, calls the rec center the “mayor’s baby.”

“He conceived of it, he convinced voters to fund it, his administration built it. He wants to open as quickly as possible,” said Rainford.

But now there are concerns over how it will be operated, as well as subsidized membership for those living on the city’s north side.

The YMCA is lined up to operate the rec center. But city aldermen are raising concerns over a $1.2 million subsidy it would need. That’s $500,000 more per year than an estimate done eight years ago.

It’s not clear exactly where the money will come from.

Slay’s office says under a current plan, 1,300 young people would get a $25 dollar- a-year membership for the center.

Alderman Antonio French says he wants commitments in writing.

“We’re talking about a $12 million dollar deal here,” said French. “Shouldn’t be about trust, should be about what’s in writing.”

But some say it’s political squabbling that’s what’s really at play.

Rainford said some could argue French is trying to make the mayor look bad in north St. Louis.

French said that’s not the case.

“The mayor’s doing that all my himself,” he said.

French is a supporter of campaign aide for Lewis Reed, president of the board of aldermen. Reed is a likely contender for the mayor’s job.

The head of the parks department says he’s hoping the issue gets straightened out in the coming week.

 

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