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Public questions Columbia City Council's intent with budget proposal

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | 11:16 p.m. CDT; updated 7:39 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

COLUMBIA — After receiving two petitions and hearing from six Columbia residents about the city's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, Mayor Bob McDavid leaned back in his chair, took off his glasses and sighed.

The second of three public hearings regarding the city's proposed budget was over. The council is considering several proposals that will help the city overcome a budget deficit of more than $30,000, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Tuesday's hearing was dominated by questions from the public regarding the general direction of the city and the following proposals that are included in the budget: 

  • Discontinuing the city's trash bag voucher program
  • Raising the sewer system connection fee for new developments
  • Increasing rental property inspection fees

The final public hearing about the proposed budget will take place during the council's next meeting on Sept. 15 at the Daniel Boone City Building. The council will vote after the hearing.

Trash bag voucher program 

Steve Sheltmire, a resident of Columbia's Fourth Ward, delivered two petitions on the trash bag program to City Clerk Sheela Amin during his presentation to the council. Sheltmire said the first petition "asks the city council to delay any decision to eliminate the current black bag program or to make any changes until the cost of service study has been completed."

The second petition asked that the council maintain the black bag system in its current format. 

Rick Shanker, who worked with Sheltmire to organize the petition's circulation, said in a later interview that the petitions were circulated at the Columbia Public Library and the Columbia Farmers' Market.

Shanker said there were about 250 signatures on each petition.

Rental inspection fees

Janet Hammen, a resident of the Sixth Ward, asked the council to approve the proposed increase in rental inspection fees, which are paid by landlords when their properties are inspected by a city building inspector.

The proposed fee increases would allow the city to recoup all the costs of enforcing its rental property policies and allow for the hiring of an additional city building inspector.

Hiring another inspector would help the city catch more policy violations and safety hazards before they can harm a tenant, especially in older homes, Hammen said.

"The people of Columbia have subsidized the costs of this program for too long," Hammen said. "It is time we hire another inspector." 

According to documents released from City Hall, the council anticipates raising an additional $154,119 with the proposed the rate increases. 

The city is proposing raising the application fee from $35 to $60 per building; the inspection fees from $15 to $26 per unit; renewal of a property's previous inspection from $25 to $43 per building; failure to meet inspector fees from $20 to $34 per incident; and re-inspection fees from $25 to $43 per unit. 

Sewer connection fee

Columbia attorney John G. Clark said he disagreed with McDavid's assertions from earlier in the meeting and in previous public statements that raising the sewer connection rates would hurt affordable housing in the city.

Clark said that there has been little construction in the city's affordable housing neighborhoods and the housing would be almost unaffected by the proposed fee change.

"We have had years of population growth and big-box stores coming to town, but very little growth in affordable housing," Clark said.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.


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