Election Day Impressions

Local conversation touches on growth, sewers
Wednesday, November 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:46 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Tuesday, Columbia residents were talking about sewers, growth and bonds -- the issues core to the election. They didn't all agree, but they all had something to say.

OPPOSING VIEWS: Ken Toler walked out of New Horizons Methodist Church after casting his vote Tuesday, then turned and cast a smile at his neighbor, Frank Seibert.

“I just canceled out your vote,” Toler told his friend.

Seibert and Toler have been neighbors for years in El Chaparral subdivision just east of Columbia’s city limits. While they regard each other as good friends, they sometimes disagree on matters of public policy.

Seibert, 62, voted against the Boone County Regional Sewer District’s bond issue, which included more than $750,000 to eliminate El Chaparral’s sewer lagoon, the largest in the county, and to hook the neighborhood into Columbia’s sewer system.

Seibert cited the rising cost of sewer service as one reason to vote against the measure. He also sees city sewer service as another step toward Columbia’s annexation of his neighborhood.

“The city’s on expansion mode,” Seibert said. “I’ve lived in Columbia since 1979, and my bills have tripled. I moved to the county to be in the county. I don’t want to have to pay the city’s taxes.”

Toler, 58, has lived in or around Columbia since 1969. He can’t remember the last time his sewer bills went up but said the bond issue and accompanying projects are just another sign of the city’s inevitable growth. He voted in favor of the bond issue.

“As a city expands its boundaries, these issues are always going to come up,” Toler said. “It just makes sense (to vote ‘yes’) because lagoons aren’t a healthy thing. We should demand good utility management.”

Despite their opposing views, Seibert and Toler didn’t argue. After a brief conversation about their families, they parted ways.

“Let’s get together sometime,” Seibert said. Toler nodded and waved.

Erica Hunzinger

FRANK McCARTY: For the past 30 years, Frank McCarty has watched Sunrise Estates grow from only a few homes into a sprawling neighborhood development. The sewer system that serves area residents, however, hasn’t kept up with expansion, he said.

“The sewers need to be upgraded to meet this neighborhood’s needs,” McCarty said. “They really need to catch up.”

McCarty said he never misses an opportunity to make his voice heard. When a developer wanted to build duplexes in the middle of Sunrise Estates several years ago, he and other neighbors helped ensure the proposal’s defeat.

McCarty hoped Tuesday that neighborhood residents would join him in approving the Boone County Regional Sewer District’s bond issue. He said the elimination of sewer lagoons serving Sunrise Estates is long overdue, as were other projects proposed by the bond issue.

“The county needs this really bad,” McCarty said. “We’ve been letting this go too long.”

McCarty said the bond issue for him represented an environmental and growth issue. It’s importantthat the sewer district rid his neighborhood of slime-green sewer lagoons and upgrade aging parts of its sewer system, he said.

“It would be great for older sections of the neighborhood, like the area under this church,” McCarty said, referring to Prairie Grove Baptist Church, where he cast his vote.

Jeff Wells

WALLY PFEFFER: Wally Pfeffer pulled up to Fairview Elementary School during the early morning rush Tuesday to cast his ballot on the water and sewer bond issues.

The crowd he had to dodge, however, was mostly composed of folks too young to vote; they were heading to class, not the polls.

One of the students was there to do both. Hillary, Pfeffer’s daughter and a fourth-grader at Fairview on Columbia’s west side, helped her father fill in the ovals and cast his ballot before starting her school day.

Pfeffer has lived in Columbia for 30 years and has voted in every election.

He voted “yes” on all three of Tuesday’s propositions, which called for a total of more than $50 million worth of city and county sewer and water projects over the next several years.

“These are basic infrastructure issues we have to deal with now,” said Pfeffer, a sales representative with Mutual of Omaha.

Pfeffer’s time in Columbia has allowed him to see how past decisions have affected Columbia over the decades, he said.

“You can see how the impact of some past decisions has not been good,” he said, citing the proliferation of sewer lagoons outside the city. “We need to avoid that so we can have reasonable options in the future.”

Kelly Snowden

EUNICE SOPER: Eunice Soper voted “yes” on the city’s Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 and on the Boone County Regional Sewer District’s bond issue Tuesday morning at Campus Lutheran Church.

“The city is going to have to pay for them one way or another,” Soper said of the water and sewer projects proposed by the bond issues. “Besides, the city and county can always use the money.”

While Soper believes the bond issues represent an effort by the city to promote and accommodate growth, she said environmental factors were a big part of her decision to favor the bonds.

Soper has lived in Columbia since 1954 and is a longtime resident of the Stephens Lake and Hinkson Creek area.

She says city and county sewer systems must be improved to help the environment and eliminate stream pollution.

“It’s kind of a mess,” she said of the lagoons and wastewater-treatment plants that exist in the county and drain into local creeks and their tributaries.

Rebecca Loveridge

JOANN VOGT: JoAnn Vogt said “no way!” on Tuesday.

Though Vogt said she’s almost always inclined to vote in favor of city improvements, she felt the city sewer bond issue on Tuesday’s ballot failed to represent progress. She decided to vote against it and the other two bond issues on the ballot.

Vogt has lived in Columbia since 1984 and said she never misses an election. Like other voters interviewed at Parkade Elementary School, she saw the election as a referendum on growth and development, not on the environment.

Vogt said she knew long before the election that she would cast a ballot, but she had no idea how she would vote until reading an editorial column written last week by Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club. Midkiff’s piece urged “no” votes, saying the city sewer bonds would benefit developers. Vogt said she doesn’t believe in paying for development that will result in profit for others.

“I see it as a free ride for Kroenke and his buddies,” Vogt said, referring to local billionaire developer Stan Kroenke.

She said she felt it was important to factor the money spent on campaigns into her decision on how to vote.

Jenn Day

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