Missouri Department of Transportation

The Millionaire Pothole Fund

Artemis Holdings co-owner James Ryan Redlingshafer Sr. lives behind these locked gates in Country Life Acres.

In this season of giving, it should warm the cockles of our hearts to know that the Missouri Department of Transportation has not forsaken the wealthiest of St. Louis County residents.

Although the millionaire denizens of the village of Country Life Acres in St. Louis County only received a small gift from MoDot last year, it’s the thought that counts.

In 2019, MoDot provided $2,964.20 to the exclusive gated community that prohibits public access to its roads. The total tax dollars annually doled out by the state transportation agency to this millionaires’ pothole fund is based on a formula that divvies up a combination of state revenue sources among cities based on population. Country Life Acres, with a population of 74, received public funds despite being a private enclave because it incorporated as a municipality in 1949. This qualifies the uber-rich subdivision to get a cut of the state fuel tax, vehicle sales tax and motor vehicle fees. Approximately, two-thirds of that money came from the state fuel tax.

When asked to explain why a private community is entitled to public funding of its roadways, a spokesman for MoDot suggested contacting state legislators about the issue. “Although in certain situations, as the one you describe, it may feel unfair, our elected lawmakers set it up in that way,” says Ryan Percy, the MoDot engineer assigned to Southwest St. Louis County. “They may be able to give you a better feel for why the law is set up this way, or perhaps, consider working with their counterparts to adjust the law.”

One of the village trustees is James Ryan Redlingshafer Sr., who purchased his five-acre estate in 2016 for $3.8 million. Redlingshafer is co-owner, with his son, of Artemis Holdings, a limited liability corporation cited for violations of building and environmental laws by the city of Richmond Heights and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health earlier this year. The health department issued Artemis Holdings a Notice of Violation for skirting federal environmental law pertaining to asbestos abatement involving the renovation of an apartment building in Richmond Heights. Artemis Holdings was also fined by the city of Richmond Heights for not obtaining a $70 building permit for the same building.

The trustee post is an elected position. That means Redlingshafer — a public official — owns a company that violated the law in another municipality located in the same county.

This bizarre circumstance can be largely attributed to the balkanized makeup of St. Louis County, which has 90 municipalities that are akin to fiefdoms. In this archaic system, wealthy landlords reap windfalls profits with few if any restrictions, as if they were midieval aristocrats exploiting their serfs.