Government Projects Keep Construction Sector Hopping

Cities and hospitals continue to keep construction projects going despite the recession and the otherwise sluggish construction sector.

In May, The Business Record reported that Lindenwood was most likely the biggest builder in St. Charles County. Now cities and hospitals are joining the ranks, with a number of multimillion-dollar projects under way or in the pipeline.

Last Thursday, construction workers used a crane to lift an 80-foot-in-diameter, steel-framed dome to the top of its new Justice Center. Construction costs will be about $17 million.

The Justice Center will house all current municipal police operations, which will relocate from the existing police station.

St. Peters Board of Aldermen meetings, along with other municipal meetings such as Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, will relocate from City Hall to the new center.

The new 65,000-square-foot Justice Center, at 1020 Kimberly Lane, will be finished in 2010.

Lisa Bedian, St. Peters spokeswoman, said the city also continues to move ahead with its Health and Environmental Services Operations project and improvements to its water plant.

Despite the difficult economic situation, the city has no plans to make personnel cuts or increase its property taxes for the next fiscal year.

"Through sound fiscal management, we will continue to provide the same level of services our residents and businesses have come to expect from the city of St. Peters," Bedian said.

Ground will be broken on the $30 million St. Charles Community Freedom Center soon, said Mayor Patti York, though a specific date hasn't been determined yet.

She said bids for demolition and site work have come in 32 percent below the city's revised projections, giving the city a $600,000 savings.

"This is the perfect time to build," York said.

Even so, the city scaled back the community center size and amenities to reduce the price of the building.

Other large-scale construction projects include a $75 million water treatment plant and a number of road construction projects.

York said the budget is slim with costs increasing and revenues decreasing, "but we'll hold our own. "

The city has found ways to save money, such as by refinancing bonds and saving $2 million, she said.

York said the city is also aggressively courting a business that has selected St. Charles as one of the finalists for where it will relocate.

"I've been busy trying to bring in economic development and letting people know we're raring to go to increase revenue for the city," York said.

She said if any cuts are made for next year's budget, it will be the extras.

Tom Drabelle, spokesman for the city of O'Fallon, said the city is finishing the first phase of its multiphase upgrade and expansion of its water and sewer system. The project has a $12 million price tag.

The city also has hired a firm to conduct an independent study on whether the proposal to build a new arena would be beneficial for the city.

The $35 million arena would be built through a partnership be-tween the St. Louis Bandits junior hockey league franchise and McEagle Properties. It would be funded by a special taxing district.

Drabelle said once the study is completed, it will be presented to the City Council.

As far as the city's budget, Drabelle said it's "premature" to discuss any cuts for next year.

"As you know, all cities and many of our residents are dealing with the effects of the recession, and O'Fallon is no different; our 2010 budget is being developed with this in mind," he said.

Budget shortfall

Last week, the city of Wentzville cut nearly $1.1 million from its 2009 budget expenditures because of a decrease in revenue.

According to the city, sales tax revenue is down less than 1 percent and both real estate and personal property tax revenues have taken a hit. The cost reductions, mainly centered on reducing personnel costs and eliminating all out-of-state travel, were made to keep the budget in balance.

But the news in Wentzville wasn't all bad.

City Administrator Dianna Wright said one positive development is that the personal property revenue decrease wasn't as significant as the city had anticipated when it prepared the budget. The city also has spent far less on fuel than was anticipated.

"While preparing the budget, we were very aware of the economic conditions affecting our residents," Wright said. The budget cuts were made so that the city could continue offering the same level or services, but without increasing taxes, she added.