Empty $1 million no-bid hotels a ‘…reflection of the success that we’ve had’

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A police and firefighters union are speaking out about the million-dollar, no-bid hotel exposed here on Fox 2.

The details of the expenditure and the results of that expenditure came as a surprise Tuesday to at least two St. Louis County Councilman. We learned during the COVID-19 expenditure meeting that the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham was contracted by the County for about a million bucks.

Then, a double whammy – we learned only 10 people are using it to quarantine, with 110 rooms remaining empty.

“There’s another side to this coin – the fact that hotel is empty is a reflection of the success that we’ve had,” IAFF Local District Vice President Kurt Becker said.

Becker defended the St. Louis County executive office’s contract for the suites.

“We didn’t want to fill it up, obviously,” he said. “Filling it up meant that we had hundreds of first responders that were very sick and the reality is had that happened we certainly would have had some of them pass away from that illness.”

He said the empty complex is a testament to St. Louis County’s quick action to get people to stay at home. His union did endorse Sam Page in the upcoming election.

The St. Louis County Police Officer’s Association, which endorses Page’s Democratic opponent Mark Mantovani, has a different opinion about the million-dollar contract.

“We certainly didn’t ask for a million dollars’ worth of hotel rooms for three or four months at a time,” said Jane Dueker, who represents the county police union.

“Our biggest concern is we did not want people thinking that somehow the police department went out and secured all of these hotel rooms that weren’t used,” she said.

“From our perspective, we find it hard to believe that there weren’t hotel rooms available, the city did not rent out an entire hotel for police officers and they had many more officers and staff that got infected and they didn’t spend near the expense that the county did.”

Fox 2 learned St. Louis City used a voucher system for first responders to use for a hotel quarantine.

At the million-dollar county quarantine hotel, Fox 2 found 10 homeless people reported to be there as of Tuesday. Since the contract, 10 first responders have stayed there; three were from St. Louis County Police.

Becker said it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback.

“20/20 hindsight, they may not have gotten the bottom-dollar cheapest price on this – I don’t know, I don’t know the details on that, but I can tell you this, those guys were working really hard out there and they were doing it earnestly with one thought in mind above all else, and that was to make sure first responders protecting residents in St. Louis County were as safe as possible,” he said.

Fox 2 will follow up as we’ve requested the contract with the hotel to see how long it lasts and if anything can be done to change it.

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