City, county residents to vote on bond issues

By KATE SCHUMAN
news@columbiamissourian.com

New stream standards and needed maintenance mean voters in Columbia and Boone County will be asked to approve two bond issues on April 8 for a combined $98 million.

The city of Columbia is asking voters to approve a $77 million bond issue, which would pay for two new treatment trains — a series of tanks — at the Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant that are needed for plant reliability and to treat for ammonia.

The latest stream standards associated with the Clean Water Act mandate limits on ammonia, which can be harmful to fish and wildlife, and fecal coliform, a bacteria harmful to humans. The Columbia plant is already meeting fecal coliform limits and does not need to add additional disinfection under the new standards.

The city bonds would also pay to update aging equipment that dates to the plant’s opening in 1983, update the grit handling system and sludge removal process that would increase plant efficiency and save costs in the long term, add an odor control system, and make improvements to the collection system.

The Boone County Regional Sewer District is asking voters to approve a $21 million bond issue, largely to update facilities and meet fecal coliform limits. In many cases, the sewer district would close lagoons and connect the neighborhoods to the Columbia sewer system or another municipality.

The district would also close facilities and construct small regional facilities or add disinfection — with chlorine or ultraviolet light — to existing facilities.

Customers of the city sewer utility would see a rate increase of 70 percent over five years if voters approve the bonds, and sewer district rates would more than double by 2013. The city would also increase connection fees for new users.

Because the new ammonia and fecal coliform limits are state mandated, the utilities would still have to pay for improvements if the bond issues fail. They would likely go back to voters or pay for the improvements in cash, which would raise rates even more, officials said.

City residents will vote on the city bond issue, and all residents of Boone County can vote on the sewer district bond issue, meaning Columbia residents will vote on both issues.