Proposition 1, city water bond, approved

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 12:14 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Voters in Columbia overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1 on Tuesday, authorizing the city to issue $38.9 million in bonds to finance future water projects. It was the only city issue on the ballot.

The measure was approved on a 38,908 to 11,386 vote, with 77.36 percent of city voters marking yes on their ballots.

Proceeds from sale of the bonds will be used to finance renovations and additions to the city's water system over the next six years.

City Manager Bill Watkins said after early absentee ballots showed overwhelming support for the bond issue that the next step would be to hold a City Council work session on Wednesday to discuss the next few steps for the project.

Watkins  congratulated the work of the committee appointed by Mayor Darwin Hindman to promote approval of the issue.

Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said that officials will mostly be discussing the financial issues behind the bonds and that it will be a matter of following through with the planned projects in the next six years.

In the face of increasing citywide demand for water and with mains as old as 50 years in some places, Columbia Water and Light proposed the large-scale bond issue as the most economically feasible solution to maintenance and distribution issues.

Before official results were in, Kacprowicz said: "If the citizens do end up supporting this issue, it's the best thing for Columbia. It will be the lowest cost financially."

The bonds will be financed by increases in utility rates, with annual increases of 1.5 percent in the first two years and 5 percent in the remaining four. Rates would increase a total of 23 percent by the end of the project.

According to figures provided by the city before the vote, the average customer's monthly water bill will increase by a total of $5.30 over the six-year period.

The renovations are intended to increase distribution of water to address expectations of higher demand and to meet fire flow requirements in some residential areas and schools.

Watkins said that these "neighborhood" projects would take top priority for the first few years.

Projects to be undertaken to reach those goals are the addition and widening of mains, the elimination of dead ends in the system and the renovation of fire hydrants, according to earlier accounts by Water and Light.

Some of the money will be directed toward the creation of three new alluvial wells in the Missouri River bottoms and the purchase of four backup generators for use during power outages. These additions address expectations of growing demand, which city officials have estimated will double by 2028.

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