Downtown Columbia Leadership Council forms task force for infrastructure funding

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | 10:43 p.m. CST; updated 6:50 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 26, 2014

COLUMBIA — The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council created a task force to brainstorm ways to fund infrastructure improvements at its meeting Tuesday night.

The idea of a task force within the Leadership Council was brought up multiple times throughout the meeting and was eventually proposed to Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who supported the idea.

The task force will be composed of Leadership Council members. It will have an initial meeting next week and will bring ideas back to the Leadership Council's meeting in March, said Brent Gardner, representative for the Historic Preservation Commission on the Leadership Council.

Thomas said he hopes the task force will bring its findings to the City Council in the future.

City Council's rejection of the tax increment financing district last week left few clear options for funding downtown infrastructure improvements necessary for further development, according to previous Missourian reporting.

As a first step, the Leadership Council suggested identifying how much funding is needed to maintain current infrastructure and how much is required for growth, assuming that student housing will continue to grow.

The Leadership Council also said many residents do not seem happy with continued downtown development. Leadership Council member Randy Gray said he did not see this as an immediate issue because there wasn't any data supporting it.

Gardner also said that the Leadership Council already requested a moratorium on downtown development.

"We don't want to kill downtown development," Thomas said. "We just want to slow it down."

The Leadership Council also proposed raising utility rates citywide as a way to fund infrastructure improvement. Some members of the Leadership Council mentioned some residents in different districts would not support the higher rates because they don't live downtown, though other members said everybody benefits from downtown.

Gray also said there isn't just one way to fund the infrastructure improvements. He said it is a complex issue that requires multiple sources of funding.

Some Leadership Council members said the Downtown Community Improvement District could help with funding, though no plans to approach the improvement district were discussed.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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