Columbia Manufacturers May Divert Increased Sewer Rates

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COLUMBIA - Manufacturing companies in Columbia that employ more than 25 people may be able to pay off increased sewer rates at a different speed than others. A Columbia City Council vote on Monday will determine if an exception will be put in place.

The increase in sewer rates was passed back in March for Columbia's biggest users. After requests by multiple companies, including Kraft Food Inc., Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid agreed to let the companies pay the sharp increase over a three year period, pending a vote.

In March, City Council ruled that a 10% increase in charges for flow was in order. Also, council ruled companies were going to have to pay based on the size of their meter. Before this initiative, companies were paying residential rates.

Columbia Foods, the branch of Kraft Food Inc., told McDavid that it would be at a competitive disadvantage with other plants in their area. The company was billed nearly $500,000 last year for Columbia's treatment of its sewage. The company would owe close to $62,000 this year for the rate increase, but if the proposal is passed, Kraft would only be on the hook for around $21,000 each year for the next three.

A Kraft Foods Incorporated spokesperson said in an e-mail, "We plan to request the phase-in sewer rate increase...We are very appreciative that the Mayor wanted to understand our situation and help us remain competitive."

Other possible companies filing for the exemption include 3M Inc., and Quaker Oats Co. The city council meeting will take place Monday at 7 p.m.