Columbia City Council reexamines water and electric systems, considers bonds
COLUMBIA – The Columbia City Council will address an ordinance Monday on whether to approve of a special August election on issuing water and electric bonds.
The revenue bonds will cost around $42.85 million. The last time the city of Columbia issued a water bond was in 2008 for about $39 million.
According to Black & Veatch project manager Andrew Hansen, the city’s water plant is on its last leg. The plant currently holds 24 million gallons per day, when it should be able to distribute 32 million gallons per day.
Columbia resident Paul Thompson said fixing the current water quality is not only important, but also essential for daily living.
Thompson said, “When it [water] comes out of the tap it tastes funny and it’s always tasted that way. It’s almost like a chlorine flavor I’ve tasted before but not this bad.”
As the city grows in population, the demand for water increases. Water and Light told the council in April that revenue bonds provide the lowest rate impacts for residents. These bonds also add stability for future customers.
Thompson hopes the bond will pass so he can avoid high water and electric rates in the future.
“They have no choice on upgrading the system,” he said. “They’re going to have to find the money and it’s going to have to come from us and I know that, but the bond increase now and the way they want to do it should be a little bit less because it’s hitting us all at once.”
Columbia Water and Light asked for water system repairs with a bond issue on the August ballot. If that fails, improvements would still need to be made though increasing water rates.
Columbia resident John Lawson said higher rates might be tricky for residents.
“Our water is a fundamental thing that we need to change and fix,” he said. “But maybe the city should place taxes on new homes and businesses that come into town."
Thompson said the city should treat its water system like it does its residential properties.
“In a house, the water system breaks down and it’s got to be worked on just the same,” he said. “Every two to three years the house has to be looked at, so why not the water system that we drink?”
(Editor's note: the video previously attached to this story incorrectly showed the city's wastewater treatment plant as a reference to drinking water)