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Forest Park lease nears completion

By Tom Weber, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – St. Louis City Aldermen are now just one vote away from approving a plan to lease some of Forest Park to Barnes Jewish Hospital.

A voice vote Thursday morning moved the plan forward with a final vote expected Friday.

The lease was revived last week after Comptroller Darlene Green reversed her position, which allowed a key vote to go through.

Alderman Steven Conway supports the plan, but during debate Thursday he lamented the way he says BJC has been treated during the months of talks.

"We cannot continue to torture, extol, make these people pawns in some political debate that they have nothing to do with," Conway said. "How are we going to achieve what we need to achieve in the coming decades if we continue to do this?"

Once passed, BJC will lease 9.4 acres of land that's separated from the rest of Forest Park by Kingshighway.

And the money the hospital pays the city will go into a fund that can only be used for park maintenance and programs.

The final vote Friday will allow the lease to not be affected by a ballot question that goes before voters next month.

If that ballot question passes, many future deals involving park land will need voter approval.

That's partially why Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury says he still opposes this plan: "This is being rushed through to avoid a vote of the people, which I don't think is appropriate.

"And I just think we need to be more careful when we make these major decisions."

But supporters like Mayor Francis Slay heralded all the parties that came together to come up with what is a compromise plan.