Proposal for Henderson branch sewer extension falls short
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council failed to pass the controversial Henderson Branch sewer project in a 3-3 vote Monday night.
The plan would have built sewers lines to serve land west of Perche Creek, including those containing Midway Truck and Travel Plaza and MidwayUSA. It would have led to annexation of the land and set the stage for residential and further commercial development.
The project was a part of a $32 million 2013 sewer bond issue.
City council member Karl Skala voted against it, saying the project was a pre-annexation agreement which didn't guarantee future revenue and could leave Columbia taxpayers on the hook.
"Pre-annexation agreements don't guarantee that this area is going to be annexed, nor does it return any tax revenue," he said.
However, proponents of the plan argued the city had a responsibility to follow through with a project already approved by Columbia voters.
Landmark Bank president Matt Williams chaired the committee responsible for supporting the original 2013 sewer bond issue. He said he believes what happened at Moday's meeting has much greater consequences than simply not passing a sewer extension.
"It just concerns me that we have a case here where we had one of the projects listed with that ballot issue and we're not going forward with it and I think it hurts our credibility with future bond issues if we don't follow through with what we say we would do in the past," he said.
Skala said the rising cost was another sticking point for him. He said, when the sewer bond issue was first released in 2013, the price was of the Henderson project was around $2 million, but it stands now at nearly $4 million.
"Frankly this inflation of cost for this new infrastructure, I think, is probably not warranted at this time," he said. "There are some projects we probably can deal with, but I think we ought to focus on taking care of the infrastructure and updates we already have."
Williams said he believes the city council's decision sets a dangerous precedent.
"It's a slippery slope when you put things on ballot issues and then you don't go through with what you told voters you're going to do," he said.
Skala said, while the plan would have driven a great deal of development, it would first require a great deal of infrastructure, especially in places the city is already strained.
"Perche Creek is a geological barrier. It's going to be very expensive to extend infrastructure beyond Perche Creek. It's going to require bridges, road infrastructure, not to mention the soft infrastructure that has to do with police and fire to cover those areas," he said.