ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- St. Louis voters could decide whether the city should privatize Lambert International Airport come this fall.
The privatization of the airport has been a controversial and divisive issue for the Board of Aldermen, who is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to put it on the November 3 ballot.
The NAACP and Carpenter's Union have already collected enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
Supporters look to the roughly $1.7 billion it would bring into the city and how the money could be used to improve neighborhoods.
Opponents say the voters are being duped on this project.
If passed, changes to the airport could happen, including expanding parking, consolidating the flight gates, increasing fees on shuttle, taxi and limo services and increasing cargo operations.
If voters pass the proposal, the city could enter into a lease agreement of at least $1.7 billion dollars with additional payments of at least $6.5 million. The lease would be up to 49 years.
“We can directly address systemic issues around the city, like the root cause of crime. When we see these murders that continue to happen in our city, we have to be able to address the poverty in these neighborhoods,” said Board President Lewis Reed.
Supporters say the money would be used to create safer neighborhoods, job development, vocational training, streets, bridges and the city infrastructure.
Critics, however, have called the proposal half-baked and Alderwoman Cara Spencer says it's a rush job.
“Well, it looks like[the Board of Aldermen] are planning on ramming this thing through at lightning speed. This has been before us a whopping seven days. They're planning on wrapping this thing up by Thursday, which will give us less than two weeks to even consider the $1 billion,” said Spencer.
“We have massive infrastructure issues across our city. families in poverty and one half of our city has not seen economic growth for years,” Reed added.
“To use it as a cash cow is a short-sighted solution to what is a real problem. We have got to figure out ways of reinvesting in north St. Louis, but selling off our assets is really not the way to go about doing it,” Spencer argued.
Even though the Carpenters' Union supports the measure, a coalition of other unions that represent 14,000 workers are opposed to airport privatization.
Leaders of those unions say the deal will benefit special interests, and could lead to a loss of jobs, with lower wages and fewer benefits.
"They privatize it, they have language in there that you have to cover your collective bargaining agreements. Once they're done, they can bring in people from outside, they can bring in sublease...for different units out there and make all the jobs non-union," said Kevin McNatt, President of Unite Here Local 74.
If the city puts the issue on the ballot, it won't be the only Lambert privatization plan for voters to vote on.
Supporters say the proposal from Reed would spell out how the money from the privatization would be used.
Reed's office later released a statement on the plan:
"Board Bill 71 is asking the City voters to decide whether or not the City should lease the airport for a minimum of $1.7B and annual revenue payments of $6.5M, with at least $1B being used for trust funds to improve the safety and quality of life. At this time, it appears that an initiative petition launched by the Carpenters Union and NAACP will be on the November ballot—so regardless of what the Aldermen do, the citizens will be voting whether or not to enter into a lease for the Airport. The Aldermen by acting have the opportunity to put a more favorable proposal to include more oversight and direction for the City."