COLUMBIA — Columbia could face significant challenges to funding and developing improvements in the management of stormwater runoff.
Currently the city does not collect enough money to fund the maintenance on additional facilities needed to improve stormwater runoff management, said Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill at a pre-council meeting Monday night.
- Claire Baffaut, USDA research biologist
- Erin Daugherty, real estate agent
- Nathan Eckhoff, principal of Crockett Engineering
- Jay Gebhardt, principal engineer with A Civil Group
- Phebe LaMar, attorney with Smith Lewis Attorneys at Law
- Ben Londeree, chair of Boone County Smart Growth Coalition
- Lowell Patterson, former cirector of Columbia's Public Works Department
During the session, the Columbia City Council interviewed seven applicants for the Storm Water Advisory Commission. Applicants offered multiple solutions to the problem of stormwater runoff and funding.
Everyone shares the problem of stormwater runoff, said Claire Baffaut, an applicant and a research hydrologist with the United States Department of Agriculture. The most equitable solution is to share the cost of improvements, she said.
“My philosophy is cost should not be transferred to the tax payer,” said applicant Ben Londeree, chair of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition. There is no reason for the city to be subsidizing stormwater management on $200,000 to $300,000 houses, he added.
There remains the problem of voters approving increased stormwater utility fees or of City Manager Bill Watkins finding the funding elsewhere, said applicant Phebe LaMar, a lawyer with Smith Lewis Attorneys at Law. The commission’s job is to recommend what should be done, not how to fund it, she said.
Applicants and council members had various ideas on what improvements should be made.
Nathan Eckoff, an applicant and principal engineer of Crockett Engineering, made a recommendation to acquire land for water retention basins, but he also said every solution has to be specific to its location.
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz asked applicants what they thought about the idea of rain gardens, which filter water and allow it to be absorbed into the soil. The idea was met with mixed reviews. The effectiveness of rain gardens relies upon the presence of absorbent soils and long term land management.
“Clay soils around here are very tough to work with,” Eckoff said.
Baffaut worried that rain garden upkeep would suffer in residential areas from changes in property ownership but would be more stable in publicly owned areas.
One of the problems of stormwater management is explaining its necessity to the public. Mayor Bob McDavid asked applicants how they would get the community to care.
Baffaut summed it up as treating others as you would like to be treated.
“We always live downstream of somebody else who is upstream, and we would want the people upstream to care about us,” she said.
The council also briefly discussed possible appropriations of the proposed one-eighth cent park sales tax. McDavid said residents often ask if the city can manage the park properties it already has.
Older voters are still concerned with preserving land from development, and not enough has been put aside for land preservation to satisfy what the community wants, Sturtz said.