The Missourian solicited written answers to a set of questions from the four candidates for the Columbia City Council. Pat Fowler, Greg Pierson and Mark Anderson are seeking a three-year term representing the First Ward, while Matt Pitzer is running unopposed for a second term representing the Fifth Ward.
Here are their answers to the following question:
The city has undertaken several central-city sanitary sewer projects in recent months. Are you satisfied with the progress the sewer utility is making in replacing and repairing sewer lines in the central city, and where do you think the remaining priorities lie?
Pat Fowler: The list of deferred sanitary and storm sewer projects is long. My priority is a recitation of how long and how expensive the list is. Manageable chunks are a strategy for implementation but not long-range planning. We want to understand the enormity of the task. The Capital Improvement Plan represents a perplexing set of conditions. How does a project get on the CIP? How does it stay on the CIP? Under what circumstances does it roll off the CIP? How does a project become part of a bond that goes to the voters? How many projects listed within the First Ward benefit the city as a whole? After you factor city-wide projects out, what projects benefit the people who live or own a business in the First Ward? Are projects in the First Ward equitably funded?
Greg Pierson: I am pleased that the city has begun the process of addressing what is certainly one of the most pressing issues in the First Ward. However, we still have a very long way to go to ensure that none of our First Ward residents are dealing with significant sewage and stormwater issues in their homes or businesses. Moving forward, I would like to expand the city’s efforts to address these problems and ensure that the needs of all parts of the city are being met. It is crucial that we make substantial progress on infrastructure issues like this as quickly as possible and that the decisions we make regarding infrastructure moving forward are equitable and sustainable.
Mark Anderson: The city treats the First Ward badly. We do not get the same amount of attention to our services as far as our sidewalks and as far as our functional needs to make our community high functioning and promote mobility. They have spent roughly $175,000 on sidewalks alone for the First Ward and $600,000 on the Fifth Ward for sidewalks alone, but we have the highest mobility rate of people using wheelchairs and senior citizens. That doesn't make sense.
Matt Pitzer: The biggest problem with sanitary sewer projects is the length of time required to deliver on them, mostly because of various statutory constraints around acquiring easements. This leads to a disconnect in residents’ minds between conception and execution of projects. But we’ve made good progress on completing a multitude of projects, as well as implementing programs to help individuals who continue to experience sewer issues. Operating a regional sewer plant is a tremendous advantage for the city and gives us the opportunity to generate funding to address remaining weaknesses in the system.