Q&A: Here's what is at stake in Tuesday's sewer bond vote

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:17 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 5, 2013

COLUMBIA — In case you haven't heard, there's a city vote being held Tuesday.

The city has called a special election for voters to approve a $32.3 million sewer bond that would gradually raise sewage utility rates over the next six years for Columbia customers.

Here's what you should know before you head to the polls.

What are we voting on?

The ballot reads: "Shall the City of Columbia, Missouri, issue its Sewer System Revenue Bonds in the amount of Thirty-two Million Three Hundred Forty Thousand Dollars ($32,340,000.00) for the purpose of construction, improving, repairing, rehabilitating, replacing, equipping, expanding and extending the city-owned sewage system?"

What does that mean?

The city is holding a special election for Columbia voters to vote on a $32.3 million sewer bond. If approved by a simple majority, the bond would go toward improving, maintaining and expanding the city's sewers.

But haven't there been recent sewer bonds?

Yes, there were sewer bond issues in 1998, 2003 and 2008. Columbia voters approved bond issues of $18.9 million in 1998, $18.5 million in 2003 and $77 million in 2008. A majority of the 2008 bond went toward projects to upgrade the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

How is this one different?

Almost 85 percent of this year's sewer bond would be spent on maintenance and repairs to the system. In the past, the sewer bonds have been more evenly split between replacing existing sewer and extending sewer lines into places where the city anticipates growth.

Why are a majority of the funds being spent on maintenance?

According to the city, there are 675 miles of sewers, and only 45 miles have been replaced or repaired in the past 40 years. Almost $16 million will be spent on inflow and infiltration projects across Columbia. Inflow and infiltration are what happens when unwanted groundwater and stormwater enter the sanitary sewer system.

When stormwater enters the sanitary sewer system, manholes can overflow or sewage can back up into homes or businesses. The city hopes these inflow and infiltration projects will help reduce the number of overflows and backups. According to the city, there have been 389 sanitary sewer overflows and 97 reported sewer backups in the past five years.

So how exactly will that sewer bond money be spent?

Here's the spending plan for a $32.3 million bond issue on Tuesday's ballot:

Maintenance: 85 percent

  • $15.9 million: Inflow and infiltration reduction projects
  • $3.5 million: Annual sewer main and manhole rehabilitation
  • $3.8 million: Replacing private sewer lines
  • $4.1 million: Improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Plant

Sewer lines extensions: 14 percent

  • $4.1 million: Extension of sewer mains for future growth

Financing cost: 1 percent

  • $600,000: Costs of administering the bond

How will the bond be paid?

If approved by a simple majority, Columbia sewer customers would see an increase in their monthly payment every other year. The average monthly residential sewer bill of $24.20 would increase by $1.45 in fiscal year 2015, $1.28 in fiscal year 2017 and $0.27 in fiscal year 2019.

What happens if the bond is not approved?

If the bond does not pass, the city would propose a 38 percent rate increase on Columbia sewer customers in 2015. That would amount to an increase of approximately $9.18 per month.

Where do I vote?

To find your polling place, go to the Boone County Clerk's website,

What else is on the ballot?

Nothing. The sewer bond is the only thing on the ballot.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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