New housing developments and commercial activity popped up all over Columbia in 2003, forcing city officials to come up with ways to keep up with the city’s rapid growth. The same challenges face the city as it moves into 2004, said City Manager Ray Beck.
Beck touted a number of major accomplishments by the city in 2003, while laying out what he sees as the biggest challenges heading into the new year, at a City Hall press conference Wednesday.
The city’s population has been growing at a rate of about 1.5 percent per year, Beck said, and construction of houses and apartments to accommodate that growth will continue to put demands on the city in the foreseeable future.
“One of my goals has been to try and make sure that proper infrastructure is in place to accommodate these additional units under the growth rate,” Beck said.
Among the biggest challenges facing Columbia a year ago was finding the money to upgrade its water and sewer systems. Gaining voter approval for a $46 million bond issue in November was a major accomplishment for the city, Beck said. In the coming year, Beck hopes to implement a number of water and sewer projects, including expansion of the water plant and a second water line from the plant to the city.
Beck suggested that a number of transportation improvements made getting around town a bit easier for Columbia residents this year. A left-turn lane was added at Interstate 70 and West Boulevard, and pedestrian bridges were built over I-70 at Providence and over Business Loop 70 at Paris Road. The projects were completed with funding assistance from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The transportation department was also instrumental in the completion of the Grindstone Parkway project, Beck said.
The city made significant strides in putting its utility billing system online in 2003. Consolidating charges for water, electricity and sewers on one bill was difficult and time-consuming, Beck said, but the effort was ultimately successful.
“We are pleased to get our computer systems and software programs brought up and running,” he said.
Beck praised Columbians for their accomplishments. Volunteers in Columbia contributed more than 37,000 hours of community service in 2003, Beck said.
The new Activity and Recreation Center also saw support from Columbians. Beck admitted that there was some concern about how the center would do financially, but he said the ARC brought in $100,000 in revenue this year.
“The first year of operation for the ARC was financially successful, and probably more important, it served a great number of children, adults, seniors, retirees, etc.,” Beck said.
Columbians spoke out about traffic and street maintenance in the city’s first-ever Citizen Survey in 2003. Responses were instrumental in securing increased funding for these areas and led to creation of a traffic unit by the Columbia Police Department.
As it was this year, improving mobility will be a major goal for the city in 2004. Beck said the city will continue to work with the state transportation department on plans to improve the I-70 corridor. City officials will work with state transportation officials to hire a consultant to evaluate the project’s traffic and economic impact on the city.
Beck also hopes to provide an I-70 interchange alternative in western Columbia, including mitigation of Stadium Boulevard traffic problems.
Also on the agenda for next year are plans for a regional park in southeastern Columbia; completion of the Sanford Kimpton Health Facility; and two or three new fire stations.