Columbia city manager addresses aging infrastructure, airport

Friday, May 10, 2013 | 3:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Aging infrastructure was the focus of City Manager Mike Matthes' Friday morning presentation of the annual performance report for the City of Columbia.

Speaking to reporters in Columbia City Hall, Matthes said the condition of the city's storm water system was "critical," and that there was a need for better roads. The life span for a road is 57 years, but many of the city's roads are pushing 100 years, he said.

Recent budget cuts have hurt the city's ability to maintain its infrastructure, he said. According to the report, the funding for streets, sidewalks and the storm water system has often lagged behind other areas in the city's budget. 

Matthes said the city would request tax increases to fund improvements. During a retreat on Wednesday, Columbia City Council members discussed raising money for storm water improvements with a 1/8-cent sales tax increase or 18-cent property tax increase, according to presentation slides from the meeting.

"We are going to lay out the case at the feet of the voters and ask them to help us," Matthes said at the meeting. 

In a question and answer session after the presentation, Matthes said the city has been in discussions with two airlines for replacing the flights between Columbia Regional Airport and Orlando International that Frontier Airlines plans to end on May 13.

"We are doing everything on our part to keep us engaged with our contacts within the industry and to make sure they see Columbia as a viable airport and market," Matthes said.

Matthes declined to give specifics about the talks, but said service to Orlando had been discussed. 

He offered a positive interpretation of recent setbacks for the airport, saying that they have shown the city's ability to overcome obstacles. 

"This year has been a roller coaster ride," Matthes said. "We are victims of a crazy industry. From losing Delta to gaining American, to now losing Frontier, it has been a lot of ups-and-downs. Still, from this we have proven our worth as an airport to the airlines."

Matthes cited the full planes flying in and out of the airport as showing the strength of demand for the airport. 

"We are a small airport, but we've shown this is a great market for airlines," Matthes said. 

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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trey moss May 11, 2013 | 2:37 p.m.

I am all for keeping our city's infrastructure working for all of us. I am not even opposed to a slight tax increase. What I would like to see is upgraded efficiency from project planning and city workers. I have seen the same hole in the street dug up at least seven times in the past two years to be "fixed." I wonder if private companies would allow the same hours given to the crews that worked on our neighborhood's big dig. I hope Mike Matthes addresses internal efficiency while looking to upgrade our city's aging infrastructure.

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