Council discusses priorities for upcoming year

Saturday, June 7, 2008 | 7:32 p.m. CDT; updated 12:18 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

LAKE OF THE OZARKS — Just after City Manager Bill Watkins gave his annual State of the City address on Wednesday, the City Council took steps to determine its course of action for the 2009 fiscal year.

Although the budget will not be finalized until September, council members and city staff participated in nearly 20 hours' worth of meetings at the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend. The discussions, which included crime, growth management, a zoning overhaul and community involvement in GetAbout Columbia, set next year’s agenda.

The annual retreat began Thursday night with a discussion about visioning, a resident-generated plan for the city’s future. It was then the concept of priorities first arose.

The term “priority” implies a picking and ranking process, said Sarah Read, a Columbia-based independent consultant. Instead, Read proposed focusing on how to best use resources instead of defining priorities.

“We say, given the resources we have now, what is feasible?” Read said. “Where do our dollars do the best now, and then how do we make the other important things happen?”

The council discussed topics Watkins outlined in his Wednesday morning address. The three key areas were law enforcement, health and social services, and economic development. He repeated the need for using existing resources efficiently in the coming year.

“I honestly don’t think this is the year that we can focus on doing more things,” Watkins said. “This is a zero sum game. Whatever we add, we’ll have to take from somewhere else.”

The council’s discussion centered on these key issues:


Vision Implementation and Oversight


— Gain publicity for current and future committee actions

— Coordinate actions with those being made by individual boards and commissions

— Connect with, inform and engage the communityn Rename oversight committee to either Columbia or Community Visioning Committee

— Future action: Hold a July meeting with the community


Natural Resources Inventory Presentation


— Create a digital land cover map of Columbia

— Use this map to analyze tree species, forest classes, grassland and paved surfaces such as sidewalks and roads

— Such data can be used in identifying areas for land development, tracking mosquito breeding grounds and for future use.


Land Disturbance Issues


— Council wants to stop land from being cleared before rezoning.

— More effort to conform to the land’s existing contours and use them as an asset

— Council wants to avoid creating many small areas of preserved climax forest, but this is the effect of the current ordinance.

— Preserving the existing canopy as well as old growth


Growth Management and Infrastructure Planning


— Create more “shovel ready” sites to interest new businesses to relocate to Columbia

— Growth such as this would require homes and employment for new families and spouses of potential employees.

— Developing a comprehensive plan would require input from the community over time in a collaborative session.


Zoning Changes


— Citizen groups have mentioned form-based code, which would allow for mixed-zone, mixed-use development.

— The SmartCode used in Lawrence, Kan. is a potential model.


Hot Topics


— Overall property crime is up, overall violent crime is down

— Two more officers will start on Monday, bringing the police force to full staff

— The territorial agreement between the Columbia Fire Department and the Boone County Fire District may need to be adjusted to a per incident fee

— The council is considering hiring an independent consultant for affordable housing and a consultant for the Kyoto Protocol.

— Future action: In the next few months, action will be discussed in response to the conclusions of the affordable housing committee.


Work Force Issues


— Develop incentives to attract employees to relocate

— Strive to meet or exceed the average market rate for salaries

— Prepare for the retirement of approximately 200 city employees within the next four years

— Improve job training and development opportunities for internal promotion

— Future action: Members of the Human Resource Department plan to visit Kansas City and Overland Park, Kan., to examine a successful model of work force development.


Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation


— GetAbout Columbia, a federally funded program designed to encourage non-motorized transportation, has project proposals in various stages.

— Ten percent — $2.2 million — of the organization’s budget will go toward education and promotion.

— Even though information has been available for some time, the Council is concerned that the public doesn’t know much about GetAbout Columbia’s community impact.

— Future action: Council members plan to hold meetings with their respective wards about GetAbout Columbia’s goals and processes.

The retreat agenda is online at

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