City, county and residents weigh in on merging St. Louis entities together

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:58 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It’s been nearly 150 years since St. Louis City and County split apart, but talks on reuniting have emerged once again, leaving some residents in the Metro skeptical about such a move.

“I think it’s just, in general, preserving the two would be better for everyone,” said one county resident about not wanting to merge the two entities. “It’s a horrible idea. The only thing the city really offers me is the attractions and ballparks. They don’t do anything for me, so I prefer to keep it separate for economic reasons and for personal reasons.”

Another resident living in the county tells News 4, they are hopeful a merger between the two governing bodies would improve the community.

“That all the problems get solved and everything gets to where it needs to be,” they said.

The conversation has reignited just weeks removed from the recent election to re-elect County Executive Sam Page. News 4 confirmed with the county on Monday that informal talks between both city and county leaders have taken place over reuniting the two entities.

Yet, the Chief of State for Mayor Tishaura Jones says that is not exactly the case.

“I’m not sure how this has come about. There have absolutely been no discussions between the St. Louis Mayor’s office and the County Executive’s office about a wholesale merger,” Jared Boyd said.

The idea of merging St. Louis city and county entities failed most recently back in 2019 through a proposal called “Better Together.”

The plan was killed after then-County Executive Steve Stenger became caught in a federal fraud scandal. He would have served as the region’s Metro Mayor once the two entities merged.

“I don’t think there’s anything different between now and in the past. It’s just different people in charge that want to talk about it,” said Mark Harder, St. Louis County Councilman for District 7.

Harder shares some skepticism with county constituents as to how a merger would even work.

“Would the city get representation on the county board? What are the financials? We have two individual governments that are in financial straits right now, and to merge the two just creates a bigger mess than what we have right now,” he said.

“It’s just a waste of money if people do decide to combine the two basic municipalities,” said another county resident. “It really boils down to it’s just a money grab because that way, the people that are affected by the zoning out or the redlining in different parts of the city, they going to get cut off a lot more money and resources.”

Over in St. Charles County, County Executive Steve Elhmann believes St. Louis City needs a structural change in order to address ongoing issues with crime that he says can have a direct impact on the communities he serves.

“Of course, looking back it was a big mistake for the city and county to separate back in 1876. It’s been a real problem for the city,” said Elhmann. “People of St. Charles County and all the other counties in the region need to do everything they can to get the region moving...and if the city combining with the county is the best way to solve those problems, I’m all for it.”

The city and county would need to cross a number of hurdles before any sort of merger happens, including re-creating a board of freeholders, which would facilitate the transition into a single governing body, which is voted on by constituents in the city and county. Also, constituents across the state, not just in the metro, would have to vote on merging the two entities.