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Aldermen Move To Strip Funding For Controversial Veolia Contract

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Opponents of Veolia hold signs at City Hall on Oct. 18, 2013.

The chair of St. Louis city’s budget committee has launched an effort to strip the funding for a controversial consulting contract with the French utility company Veolia.

In a legal opinion released last week, Mayor Francis Slay argued that the $250,000 contract had been approved as part of the budget process, and urged comptroller Darlene Green to sign it. That's a recollection disputed by Ald. Terry Kennedy, who chairs the Ways and Means committee.

"What the Ways and Means committee had in front of them was an appropriation for $1.3 million for professional services. There was no detailed outline as to how that was to be expended," Kennedy said. The head of the water department provided some additional information in testimony, he said, but the details were never put in the budget.

Kennedy's bill would reduce the water department's budget by $250,000 - the amount of the contract.

"If it does not stop it in its tracks, it certainly sends a message that this board is not in support of it," he said. "And that clear message, in my opinion, should have an effect on their decision-making."

Eddie Roth, the mayor's operations chief, responded that aldermen are risking a 16 percent increase in water rates.

"If the aldermen are successful in keeping the mayor from holding down water rates by stripping out the $250,000 in engineering fees that we need to get top talent to help us do things better, people are going to get hurt and they’ll need to know that it’s the aldermen who kept the mayor from keeping the rates down," he said.

Green has said she will not sign the contract without changes, and believes it needs additional approval beyond the budget process.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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