ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Fox 2 first told you about the million-dollar contract for the use of a Maryland Heights hotel one week ago today.
Two St. Louis County Councilmen have been asking questions about whether we really had to spend a million dollars during a time when hotels are hurting for business. A fire union, which endorsed St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page in the upcoming election, has defended the expenditure.
St. Louis County reports 52 people have been quarantined at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham since the million-dollar contract began March 18.
St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder calculated we’ve spent $23,022 per person for putting them up an average of eight days for quarantine.
If you break it down per night, Harder calculated that it’s cost taxpayers $3,038.45 per room.
Councilman Harder said original negotiations called for reserving even more hotels.
“I’m glad we didn’t contract with four different hotels, else we’d have four empty hotels, so that’s a good thing,” he said.
Harder determined the total cost for reserving the suites when you include added payroll expenses was $1,197,150.
“It’s our tax money and it’s money we all pay into and we want to make sure it’s getting to the right place,” he said.
Councilman Ernie Trakas has also been fighting for answers and for ways to regain control of spending.
“There was a lot hysteria nationwide actually in terms of projections that now have been exposed as certainly inaccurate at a minimum,” he said.
“In my mind, it points back to why it was so important that the council retain its appropriation authority over the CARES Act funds. If that were in place today, people would have to stand and deliver, otherwise no additional funds would be forthcoming.”
A firefighter’s union that endorsed Page defended the office last week. Kurt Becker, a spokesman with the local IAFF, said the county executive acted urgently and proactively.
“The very first time (Page) reached out, his simple question was, ‘What do you guys need? How can we help you? What do you need as first responders need to do this job?’” Becker said.
St Louis County Co-Director of Public Health Spring Schmidt provided a statement this week, adding:
The State asked us to help identify an isolation/quarantine hotel before we even had our first coronavirus case and indicated that they would assist us as it moved forward. The majority of the people who have stayed at the hotel have been COVID-positive, unhoused individuals, and some first responders. The hotel recently has been available to the general public who may need a safe place to isolate to avoid potentially infecting family members.
The primary purpose in blocking out the rooms was to minimize all potential spread of the virus to the general public.
Again, this was preparatory, but the unhoused in particular have no other place to isolate or quarantine for multiple days without causing a major outbreak. Because of the COVID patients, the facility undergoes additional cleaning and care protocols that are above and beyond traditional hotel services.Spring Schmidt
Fox 2 has learned the County has begun looking into the renegotiation of the hotel contract and other expenditures. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.