Councilman Holds Development Constituent Conversations

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COLUMBIA - Fourth Ward Columbia Councilman Ian Thomas discussed infrastructure capacity expansion and new development charges at his constituent conversation Saturday afternoon.

He presented recent preliminary analyses of utility costs including water, electric, sewer and storm water capital project expenses from 2005 to 2014, which showed an estimated less than 50 percent costs recovered of public funds spent on additional infrastructure capacity. He said this rate could possibly reach as low as 10 to 20 percent.

"I'm trying to determine what this figure is and then letting everybody in the community know what it is," Thomas said. "The community can decide if they feel it's appropriate."

With these estimated percentages, Thomas and other Fourth Ward residents at Dunn Brothers Coffee shared opinions on that estimated recovery percentage and how high they'd like to set percentage cost recovery in the future to continue growing the city without dropping unsustainable construction and maintenance costs on Columbia residents.

"Columbia's growing at about 2.5 percent per year," Thomas said. "That means we're adding 10-thousand people about every three or four years. That requires an enormous expansion of our road systems, sewers and all the other utilities to serve that additional development. That comes to tens of millions of dollars a year in infrastructure costs."

"If it turns out that only 10 or 15 percent is being currently allocated to the new development at the time of permitting through different fees we have, that means that the other 80 to 90 percent is being absorbed into general rates and taxes that the whole community is paying," Thomas said. "Whether that's right or not, it's for everybody to decide on their own. I personally feel it is unsustainable, if those numbers come out as they appear to be, that's an unsustainable level. We're never going to be able to do that because people are going to refuse to pay those levels of rates to subsidize new developments of that rate."

Thomas said to reiterate that these analyses are still in a preliminary state, and he's still looking for a number of answers to finalize these results.

He said he plans on sharing his preliminary and estimated findings at the Columbia City Council meeting Monday, seeking feedback and discussing them further.

Click here for more on Thomas' analyses. He will hold another constituent conversation on May 31.