Traffic light violations will help fund seniors' transportation system
By Tim Bryant
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Indirectly, drivers who run red lights will soon begin paying to provide seniors with rides to their doctors' offices.
The first $75,000 in fines collected by the city's soon-to-be operational red-light cameras will be directed to the municipality's transportation system for seniors.
Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth proposed the move at the Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday night. He said the transportation system needs more money to meet demand and to make up for dwindling federal aid.
Almost 100 people, nearly all of them elderly, take part in the program now. It provides vouchers that participants use for rides to medical offices and elsewhere. The city contracts for the service with a St. Louis company, Express Medical Transporters Inc.
Federal funding for the program has dropped yearly, from about $35,000 two years ago to under $27,000 for the fiscal year that began this month, city officials said. Hollingsworth said demand for the service outstrips the amount of money available.
"The gap in the city's ability to meet transportation needs of the community is increasing," said Hollingsworth, adding that on average, three residents are turned away from the program weekly.
Aldermen voted unanimously to devote the first $75,000 in red-light camera income to the transportation program. Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., is installing computerized red-light cameras at six intersections.
Such cameras catch motorists who run red lights. Under its agreement with the city, Redflex will collect a portion of the income violators pay in tickets. The system could be operating within weeks.
Aldermen also agreed with Hollingsworth to require that the $75,000 transportation payment be renewed annually.
In other business, aldermen heard about plans for an expansion of Mid Rivers Mall. A nearly 77,000-square-foot expansion for new stores and restaurants is planned. Unlike the rest of the mall, this would be a single level of new shops facing outward.
Westfield Group, the mall's operator, wants to be allowed to add up to a penny in sales tax on purchases at the mall to pay for a portion of the project. A public hearing on the proposed community improvement district is scheduled for the aldermanic meeting Nov. 9.
The additional sales tax, which would be on top of the current 7.55 percent sales tax collected in St. Peters, would pay for about $13.7 million in landscaping, parking, traffic and other projects at the mall. The tax would not be collected at the four anchor stores, which are not owned by Westfield. They are Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy's and Dillard's.
In addition, aldermen:
Awarded, as expected, a contract to Walton Construction Co. to build an $18.5 million expansion of the Rec-Plex. The project, to be paid for with user fees, will include two ice rinks and other facilities, including a remodeled gymnasium. The expansion could be completed in about a year.
Authorized City Administrator Bill Charnisky to reach agreement with Turfmasters Inc. to build wetlands at the Lakeside 370 Business Park. Wetlands, required by the Army Corps of Engineers, will include numerous trees and other water-friendly plants.