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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Using city money for private sewers is dubious

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 1:17 p.m. CST

In March 2011 the City Council established a financial assistance program (Section 22-217.3 of the city's Code of Ordinances) that allowed using public money to repair private sewers to reduce the amount of inflow and infiltration entering the public sewer system.

Establishing a program that allows using public money to repair problems with private sewers at a time when there is a shortage of public money available to repair problems with public sewers is a questionable use of public money. Using public money to perform work that licensed plumbing contractors could (should) be performing is also a questionable use of public money.

  1. The program the council established included five criteria for using public money to repair private sources of inflow and infiltration. The Public Works Director was responsible for administering the program.
  2. The property must have been studied (inspected) for inflow and infiltration by the city;
  3. The property must be used as an owner-occupied residence having three (3) units or less;
  4. The property must be in a target area;
  5. The structure on the property must have been constructed before 1996; and
  6. The source of the inflow and infiltration entering the city’s sewer system must be from a:
  • Sump pump (the maximum city reimbursement is $1,000)
  • Downspout-up to 4 (the maximum city reimbursement is $500)
  • Uncapped cleanout(s) (the maximum city reimbursement is $75 each)
  • Lateral connection (the maximum city reimbursement is $2,500)

The public works director was to establish a list of private, licensed plumbing contractors or contractor teams willing to perform the above work. The city was not  to be a party to any contract.

A recent Sunshine Request has confirmed that the public works director has ignored the above criteria established by the City Council and has established his own unwritten criteria for spending public money to repair private sources of inflow and infiltration and has spent more than $540,000 of the public’s money.

Bill Weitkemper of Columbia was a city sewer superintendent for 37 years.


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