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Citing of Workhouse in MSD charter may confuse Proposition 1 voters

ST. LOUIS – When voters see their ballots for Tuesday’s election, a phrase in Proposition 1 may throw them for a loop: MSD, the sewer district, is asking to change its charter, including replacing the words “city workhouse” with “jail or detention facility.”

What does the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District have to do with the workhouse or jail? Not much, in the ordinary course of events. So is that phrase in the ballot language a mistake, perhaps mixing up separate issues? Or worse, does the seemingly odd inclusion of the phrase have anything to do with the push toward eliminating the workhouse?

Nope.

MSD spokesman Sean Hadley explained in an email to MetroSTL.com that the district just wanted to update all of the language in its charter.

“Keep in mind the charter was written in 1954,” Hadley wrote. “During that time jails and or detention facilities were commonly referred to as ‘workhouses.’” 

But why does MSD need its charter to address jails at all?

The answer can be found in Article 4, Section 4.010, Violation of District Ordinances: Someone who violates a district rule can face a fine or jail time or both, up to a maximum of $1,000 and/or a year in the workhouse. Or jail.

Hadley acknowledged the public’s confusion over the line in Proposition 1.

“We have been getting a lot of questions about this, [because] people see the word ‘workhouse’ and think that something funny is going on,” he said. 

Proposition 1 – like sewers themselves – may contain nothing very exciting or glamorous. But even sewers eventually need an upgrade.

See the complete sample ballot at the Board of Election Commissioners’ page on the city website, stlouis-mo.com.

MetroSTL.com reporter Jim Merkel contributed to this report.

June Heath

copy@thenorthsider.com

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