New task force to look at city's sewer, water, electric problems
COLUMBIA - A new task force to study infrastructure in Columbia met for the first time Monday night, but one city leader has concerns about its purpose.
The Mayor's Task Force on Infrastructure will meet over the next year to study sewer, storm water and electricity problems in the city. The task force is also tasked with figuring out possible funding to fix these problems, and will present their findings to the Columbia City Council in a year.
Below: An electric pole along Again Street in Columbia, Missouri on September 14, 2015. Former Columbia Sewer Maintenance Superintendent Bill Weitkemper said improvements need to be made to electricity and water infrastructure, especially in downtown Columbia. Photo: Zack Newman.
According to Bill Weitkemper, task force member and former city sewer superintendent, some of the main problem areas include the storm water system on Again Street, which backs up every time it rains. There are also concerns with the water and electricity capacity in downtown Columbia.
Below: A storm drain along Again Street that Bill Weitkemper, Columbia's former sewer maintenance superintendent, said is in a problem area on September 14, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. He said rain causes issues in the neighborhood and will be one of the focuses of the Mayor's Task Force on Infrastructure. Photo: Zack Newman.
Weitkemper said he hopes real change can come about from the task force.
"I'm hopeful things will define how to fix the infrastructure and the repairs that will be needed," Weitkemper said. "It will cost a lot of money but we don't have a choice. The safety of Columbians is a priority."
Below: City Councilman Karl Skala discussed the formation of the task force in his home on September 14, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. He was the only dissenting vote for the formation of the group and said he is leery about how effective it will be. Photo: Zack Newman.
However, Columbia Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he's concerned the task force has already become too politicized. Skala was the only councilman to vote against the formation of the task force in July.
"I voted against it primarily because I thought this might be a devolution into a political fight, and frankly just a way of kind of kicking this problem down the road," Skala said.
Weitkemper said he thinks the public will be able to hold the task force accountable, as long as they show up to the meetings.
Below: The lid to a water meter in Columbia, Missouri on September 14, 2015. Former Columbia Sewer Maintenance Superintendent Bill Weitkemper said a potential method for the city to produce revenue in order to implement infrastructure improvements is to ensure water meters are on every apartment unit, not just the complex. Photo: Zack Newman.
Correction: The last photo's caption was changed to correspond with the correct photo.