Voting for electric and sewer projects open today

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COLUMBIA - Upgrades to the city's electric and sewer systems could be finalized Tuesday if voters decide to pay more for those utilities.

If passed, Proposition 1 would implement a six percent utility rate increase gradually over the next three years. The $63.1 million bond issue would pay for projects such as upgrades to current electricity equipment and the construction of a new electric substation.

Connie Kaprowicz, spokesperson for Columbia Water and Light, said the projects are necessary to comply with federal rules under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. She said the city could be fined anywhere from $1,000 to $1,000,000 per day if it fails to meet the requirements. 

She said if the proposition isn't passed, the city will have to increase rates by a substantial margin. 

"If we can't borrow that money and pay for it over time, then we would have to make more dramatic increases over the short term to help raise the money to build those projects," Kaprowicz said. 

She said either way the projects are going to get done, but the city may have to raise rates 20 to 25 percent if the bond issue fails. 

"It's the least impact as far as rate increases go and it really gets us as far as the next step of improvements we need to make sure the electric system remains reliable,"  Kaprowicz said. 

Proposition 2 would raise storm water utility prices approximately 200 percent in the next five years to pay for sewer projects.

Monthly stormwater rates would increase yearly depending on the size of the residence. 

The city said there are 16 different places around Columbia that are planned to be worked on from 2016 to 2020. 

Supporters of the measure argue the money is necessary to keep electricity and sewage systems running smoothly.

Opponent Steve Spellman, spokesperson for Boone County for Liberty, isn't sure about the proposition due to distrust among the city and Columbia residents. 

"We've had a number of situations, not just one issue or two, in the last year or so where city hall has told us one thing, we end up believing them, but the truth ends up being something else," he said. "That's the greater concern. We need public accountibility and trust restored before we go forward with any new projects in the community."

The full list of projects that would be funded by Proposition 1 can be found on the city's website. 

Follow KOMU News on Twitter and watch KOMU tonight for updates on the election.