Columbia Council to Present Solutions to Downtown Sewer Issues

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will present three options Monday to fund the Flat Branch Watershed Relief Sewers, which will increase downtown sewer capacity.

The council has proposed four projects throughout downtown. Suggested council action at Monday's meeting is to direct staff to bring forward a funding option for council consideration at a later date.

Below is a map of the proposed projects. 

As of now, the city has enough money to fund projects one and three and the CHP and ACC developments have offered to pay for Project two.

Option one would postpone the fourth project until 2019 and there will be no sewer rate increase. 

Option two would increase the sewer rate by $10.72 per month and not postpone the fourth project. 

Option three would increase the sewer rate by $6.15 per month and not postpone the fourth project. The extra funding would come from reserve funds or by a ballot initiative. For example, the sewer rate increase would pay for project one and the Annual Sewer System improvement budget from the 2013 ballot would pay for project three. 

Columbia taxpayer Tracy Greever-Rice agrees the city needs to address issues with sewers downtown.

"Sewers is one of those issues that you really, really, really need to get right for obvious public health and safety reasons, and as a community we've neglected ours for apparently several decades," Greever-Rice said.

Greever-Rice said sewer issues are not just a problem downtown. 

"Particularly in older neighborhoods where we literally have areas where when it rains, people literally get raw sewage in their basements," Greever-Rice said. 

Greever-Rice said she believes it's up to Columbia citizens to pay to fix the sewage issues. 

"The reality is we are an incredibly low rate, low tax city, and we've done that for a long time to facilitate development, and it's time to pay the piper," she said. "We need to pay for ourselves communally in a way that gives us the kind of community that we want."

Project one will cost $3.1 million. Project two will cost $410,000. Project three will cost about $2.3 million. Project four will cost over $3.5 million. All the projects combined will cost nearly $9.4 million.