Jun 30

Growth and Investment

Posted on June 30, 2023 at 8:03 AM by Bryanna Hartmann

For the past 25-plus years, St. Charles County has been the fastest growing county in Missouri. While a significant portion of this growth can be attributed to urban flight from St. Louis, with nearly 40 percent of the county's growth over this time coming from people within the region relocating to St. Charles County, the remaining growth has been driven by individuals new to the region seeking the best quality of life, including good schools, safe neighborhoods, and economic opportunities for their families. In order to preserve the factors that make St. Charles County attractive to all, a smart growth strategy is essential. 

It is important to differentiate between mere "growth" and "investment." While growth can be spontaneous and unplanned, investment implies a deliberate approach that considers long-term sustainability. By being tactical and strategic, we can ensure that new developments align with the county's vision and contribute positively. Furthermore, the county should focus on areas where momentum already exists. By building upon the successes and strengths of existing communities, we can foster growth while avoiding disjointed development patterns. As a collar county to a metro region, St. Charles County has a unique blend of both urban and rural areas. Some have said we are actually two counties within one boundary. This situation has challenges when creating growth strategies. Our rural way of life outside of the golden triangle and interstate corridors is home to places like America's First Wine Appellation in Augusta, thriving hunting and fishing preserves bordering our expansive waterways, and other attributes that are uniquely St. Charles, and carry a heritage over 200 years old. This is why communication and coordination are key components of any successful growth strategy. By fostering open dialogue among stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and government agencies, we can ensure that everyone's interests are considered. This will facilitate a shared understanding of the vision for the county and promote a sense of ownership and collective responsibility.

In terms of economic development, I am encouraging a focus of nurturing small businesses. A thriving small business community provides a solid foundation for investment growth, as it diversifies the economy and creates opportunities for local entrepreneurs. Small businesses have a vested interest in the success of our area, as they are rooted in the community and employ local residents. Supporting small businesses also reduces reliance on a single industry, providing greater financial stability through a diversity of industry sectors.

While maintaining growth is important, it is equally crucial to control the pace and direction of growth. A strategic approach will ensure that the county's unique attributes are preserved, leading to long-term success. By implementing a smart growth strategy that emphasizes investment over mere expansion, focuses on existing momentum, and fosters collaboration among stakeholders, St. Charles County can continue to be a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.

Dec 01

Taking Action Against Crime

Posted on December 1, 2022 at 11:15 AM by County Council

There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently about crime and how it affects an entire region. It is undeniably (well, most would agree) an issue in the City of St. Louis and it is spreading elsewhere, including to St. Charles County.

In St. Charles County, we’ve specifically had issues with vehicle thefts and break-ins. Statistics from Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar tell us that 65 percent of individuals incarcerated in the St. Charles County Department of Corrections on auto theft-related crimes are not residents of St. Charles County. And Corrections Director Dan Keen tells me that 45 percent of those incarcerated in the County jail on all crimes are not from St. Charles County.

What are we doing about this? Plenty.

At the end of 2020, vehicle thefts were up 74.70 percent over 2019.  St. Charles County Police Chief Kurt Frisz and Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Lohmar began working with police chiefs across the county in 2021 to arrest and prosecute those who break into and/or steal vehicles in the county.  This led to the formation of the Auto Theft Task Force which began operations in February of 2021.  At the end of 2021, car thefts in St. Charles County were already down 39.31 percent from 2020.  The task force continued to operate into 2022 and as of today’s date, Nov. 22, 2022, they have made 411 arrests for the year, and car thefts are now down another 50 percent from 2021.  St. Louis County and the Maryland Heights Police Department have also adopted our operational plan and are running their maneuvers in conjunction with ours.  

Tim Lohmar says 85+ percent of those caught have been sentenced to serve time in prison or are still incarcerated awaiting sentencing.

Because of the efforts of the St. Charles County police departments, overall crime was down in 2021 vs. 2020. In addition to motor vehicle theft, burglary, fraud, arson, larceny, violent crime, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, and firearm-related incidents all decreased. Murders and hate crimes stayed the same, at five and three respectively.

Our schools are safer as well. Thanks to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the County Council was able to approve funding to place School Resource Officers (SROs) from the County police department in public elementary schools of unincorporated areas of the county for the 2022-2023 school year. This extends our SRO placement to include every public school in unincorporated St. Charles County, as well as Augusta Elementary in the Washington School District and schools in Dardenne Prairie and Weldon Spring. We are looking for resources to continue to fund this past 2023.

All officers in the county are ready should an active shooter incident occur. They are trained in Multi-Assault, Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC), which is used throughout the country. This is intense, recurring training that is mandatory for any officer.

I feel great about the abilities of our officers to keep us safe, but they need our help as well. What can we do? Plenty.

  • Close windows and lock the doors of your home and your vehicles.
  • Remove your keys from your vehicle and don’t leave a spare to your home or car nearby.
  • Don’t keep valuables in your auto, especially if they can be seen from the outside.
  • Park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances, when possible. If you have a garage, park in it and keep the garage door closed.
  • Leave lights on when you aren’t at home.
  • Install an audible alarm system at your home or on your car.
  • Take advantage of vacation checks offered by the St. Charles County Police Department.

I talked to Chief Frisz and he wants to remind residents that while these crimes happen all year, they intensify over the holidays. “We are asking everyone to observe safety precautions,” he says. “We tell people to ‘lock it or lose it,’ for a reason.”

And the Chief has another word of caution. If you see someone trying to steal your car or catalytic converter, call 9-1-1. If you’re at home, turn on the lights. Don’t confront them because very often they are armed.

Stay safe, folks. Stay alert, be vigilant, and have happy, safe holidays.

Jun 01

The Good News in St. Charles County

Posted on June 1, 2022 at 8:16 AM by County Council

If you’re weary of all the bad news coming from the national and global front lately, take a moment to pause and think of all the encouraging and exciting reasons we have to be thankful we live in St. Charles County. We are once again the fastest growing county in Missouri with a population of more than 406,000 according to the 2020 census, and we’re growing by an average of 6,000 people per year. Our cities make national lists of the Best Places to Live on a regular basis. We are seeing new companies choosing to call St. Charles County home, while current companies are making large investments in their expansion. 

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