Privatization process of Lambert Airport hits another snag as city officials delay vote to approve advisers yet again

In yet another sign that the process to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport still has a long way to go, St. Louis city officials delayed a vote on whether or not to approve a team of advisers for the second time.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, comprised of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, was set to vote on the matter Wednesday, but city officials are still negotiating.

Advisors would be made up from members of Grow Missouri Inc., Moelis & Co. LLC and McKenna & Associates LLC. The privatization process cannot move forward unless the city picks an advisory team.

Due to the delay, a vote on the contract will likely come at the next regularly scheduled Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting on June 20, unless a special meeting is called.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen in February passed a resolution that would require representatives from Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office and the team advising the city whether to privatize Lambert International Airport to provide updates to the legislative body every 60 days at public hearings.

Alderwoman Marlene Davis from the 19th Ward, introduced the resolution and said she wished regular reports from the officials who have been involved with the process would better inform the public.

The resolution passed by a vote of 18-8 with Alderwoman Sarah Wood Martin absent, but was met with opposition from at least eight Aldermen who made it very clear that Rex Sinquefield’s involvement in the airport privatization process is troubling.

The eight Aldermen who voted against the resolution — Cara Spencer, Samuel Moore, Christine Ingrassia, Scott Ogilvie, Megan Green, Dan Guenther, Sharon Tyus and Heather Navarro — would ultimately need to approve a future lease agreement, due to the fact that a lease agreement for Lambert would require 20 yes votes, not the usual 15.

Nine no votes would kill the agreement altogether.

If the privatization does happen, the city of St. Louis would still retain the ownership of the airport but would also have a deal in place with a selected contractor in which the contractor would run the day-to-day operations of the airport.

According to the charter and ordinances of the city of St. Louis, the decision to move forward on privatization cannot move forward without approved from the Airport Commission, the Transportation Committee and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Originally, the idea of privatization was initiated by former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay before he left office in early 2017. Shortly after it was requested, it was granted federal approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to some advocates for the privatization of the airport, the deal would allow more income to come into the suffering city of St. Louis. Money from the deal could be used on upgrading key infrastructure within the city along with other projects.

In January, Mayor Krewson, stated the airport has long been in need of substantial upgrades and the privatization would help the airport remain competitive.

In January, it was announced that Rex Sinquefield’s nonprofit, Grow Missouri Inc. along with McKenna & Associates LLC and Moelis & Co. LLC, would help guide St. Louis government with the intricacies of the deal.

Critics were quick to point out that the selection process was met behind closed doors, and a quick legislative hearing didn’t allow for any public comment for residents to ask questions or have their concerns heard.

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