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Downtown Leadership Council explores city infrastructure needs

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | 9:52 p.m. CDT; updated 10:04 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

COLUMBIA — Fixing the city's downtown infrastructure problems and finding ways to prevent infrastructure overload in the future were the main topics of discussion at the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council meeting Tuesday.

The downtown council will soon submit a report to the City Council that will explain infrastructure issues facing downtown, analyze what it will cost to meet future demand and suggest long-term funding options.

The downtown council's infrastructure subcommittee plans to finish the proposal within the next two weeks, downtown council Chairman Brent Gardner said. The city has spent enough time discussing the issue and needs to take action, he said.

"It's time to produce something, get it to City Council and get it out there," he said.

Despite a looming deadline, commission members remain divided about where the money should come from.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said that there is some money available to pay for sewer improvements but that the necessary amount is "probably not just sitting around." He said he is aware of about $1.6 million that could be allocated toward the estimated $10 million needed for sewer improvements.

The total estimated cost to update downtown sewer and electric utilities is $49 million, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Several downtown council members said the city needs to explore alternative methods of raising money, such as through proposed tax increases.

Downtown leadership Commissioner Nick Peckham said the city cannot spend money it does not have. He estimates the city will need to spend $1 billion on infrastructure "by the mid-century."

"It's a lot of money — a lot more money than the current tax system can provide," he said. "I think we're really at a crossroads here. There's only one way to get (the money) — from the people that live here."

The downtown council also heard reports on the results of two town hall meetings held earlier this month that were designed to gather public input on downtown infrastructure needs. The input will be used for the infrastructure subcommittee's report for the City Council.

Gardner said the town hall meetings did what the City Council had asked and addressed public questions on infrastructure and development appropriately.

"The reason there is public confusion is because the mayor and city manager were saying that without the improvements made by (a tax increment financing district), development downtown would fail," downtown leadership Commissioner Randy Gray said.

Although the city is getting bombarded with high-density residential development requests, throwing up a "red flag" on future development does not mean already-approved projects will not get built, St. Romaine said.

"To say downtown is closed off for any development is not true," he said.

The downtown council might hold additional town hall meetings when the city moves forward with how to address the infrastructure problem, Gray said.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.


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Comments

Tracy Greever-Rice May 28, 2014 | 10:27 a.m.

"It's a lot of money — a lot more money than the current tax system can provide," he said. "I think we're really at a crossroads here. There's only one way to get (the money) — from the people that live here."

While it's clearly appropriate for the 'people that live here' to support the infrastructure that they use - including maintenance and upgrades, there are certainly more ways than 'one way' to pay for infrastructure for new development. Those doing the developing, regardless of where they live, should pay for 1) stress on the existing system, 2) jumping the queue, and 3) the new costs they incur to the existing system.

It's an issue of simple fairness. Why should the 'people that live here' have to pay for development that devalues their property and diminishes their quality of life?

Also:
"Although the city is getting bombarded with high-density residential development requests, throwing up a "red flag" on future development does not mean already-approved projects will not get built, St. Romaine said.

"To say downtown is closed off for any development is not true," he said."

If I were a clever editor/reporter, I would most certainly avail myself to the video recordings of the public hearing regarding the failed, enormo central city TIF and the 'special', compressed-timeline meetings to pass an additional 1300+ toilets, showers, and dishwashers downtown...

When discussing the flow human excrement, me thinks the term 'antiquated and insufficient' is quite sufficient to give one pause before proceeding to increase 'taxing' an already over-taxed system (all double enten's intended).

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice May 28, 2014 | 11:09 a.m.

Helpfully, the Columbia Heartbeat did your work for you this morning. Check out this 12/7/13 article (less than 6 mos ago) regarding downtown development:

http://www.columbiatribune.com/business/...

Some interesting and wholly inconsistent quotes from Tony St. Romaine's quotes in your article today.

"If we don't find a way to finance the infrastructure, they can't build here." - Bob McDavid 11/13

"We are really at the point where if we want to see anything developed downtown, we have to see that infrastructure improved." Mike Matthes, 12/7/13

From the Trib 12/7/13 article:

'Matthes said no new projects can open until the city upgrades its infrastructure. There are five or six projects that would have started already, he said, but the city doesn't have the electric and sewer capacity to accommodate them. Without more funding, he said, downtown Columbia will look the same as it is now for a long, long time.'

Hhhmmm, and yet just three months later, the 1,000 beds mentioned in this article (read it!) were fast-tracked through in the 'special', compressed-meeting time frame. And the city council and legal have defiled the city charter they are sworn to uphold in direct opposition to statements made by the mayor and city manager just weeks before.

And all of this has happened without any additional funding for infrastructure resolved???

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

(Report Comment)

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