City Council wary of new high school figures

Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 11:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:09 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — One way or another, Columbia Public Schools will get infrastructure cost estimates for six proposed high school sites Oct. 5. The Columbia firm contracted by the school board to survey the land parcels — Engineering Surveys & Services — will provide those numbers.

But Sixth Ward City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she is worried that the figures given to the schools won’t include potential costs to the city. Hoppe said a motion asking city staff to generate its own infrastructure cost estimates will likely be made at the council’s Oct. 1 meeting, if the council doesn’t know whether the the city’s costs will be included in the estimate by the engineering firm.


City Council meeting: 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at City Council Chambers, 701 E. Broadway • Committee members receive cost estimates from the engineering firm: Oct. 5 • School board meeting: 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at 1818 W. Worley St. • Committee meeting: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at West Junior High School, 401 Clinkscales Road

“If the estimates are only regarding the property owned by the school board, we will need estimates of what it would cost the city in terms of infrastructure,” Hoppe said.

The term “infrastructure” is used describe one-time expenses to develop property. Sewer, water, gas line extensions and roads are all considered infrastructure improvements.

City Manager Bill Watkins said his office is willing to come up with cost estimates if the high school site evaluation committee or the City Council asks him.

Watkins offered to have staffers generate those estimates Tuesday afternoon when he spoke with Superintendent Phyllis Chase, but she did not take the offer, he said.

Chase declined the offer because the engineering firm had already been contracted to provide those estimates, Watkins said.

Don Ludwig, a high school site evaluation committee member, said the engineering firm’s estimates would not only include the costs of infrastructure within the land parcels being considered, but also the costs to extend utilities and sewers to those sites. He does not know if the firm will calculate the cost of building roads within and to the proposed sites.

Hoppe said the road costs are an important factor for the city to consider.

“Those roads are expensive,” Hoppe said. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle that’s missing, because the state of Missouri isn’t awash in money for roads or bridges.”

The city will most likely pay some of the costs for any roads that would have to be built or extended to the site.

Hoppe said she has spoken with City Council members Jerry Wade and Karl Skala about her concerns. She had not spoken to City Council members Almeta Crayton, Laura Nauser and Chris Janku.

She also e-mailed Watkins to ask if his office had provided or was preparing those estimates. He responded that no estimates had been made or were being made. That e-mail was sent after the high school recommendation meeting Sept. 18.

Neither Hoppe nor Watkins have spoken with members of the engineering firm generating the infrastructure cost estimates.

Vice President of Engineering Dave Bennett is the engineer generating those estimates, President Larry Hendren said. Bennett is on a cross-country motorcycle trip and will not be back until Oct. 2.

“I have committed to get the information to my client on the fifth of October,” Bennett said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Chase has reviewed infrastructure cost estimates for one of the proposed sites before.Watkins provided sewer cost estimates to Chase during the Vemer site selection process in early 2007.

“They were very general,” Watkins said. One estimate was $7 million if a new sewer line was run to the site. The other was $3.5 million, if a pump was used to pump sewage over to the Grindstone sewer. That pump would only serve the immediate high school area. Watkins did not make any other estimates of cost regarding water, electricity, roads or natural gas lines.

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