COLUMBIA — Members of the Columbia City Council and city staff debated Wednesday night to finalize a list of projects that will be covered by a sales tax increase proposed for the August ballot.
The officials, meeting at the Daniel Boone City Building for the second night of a two-night mini-retreat, came to an agreement on about 35 projects to be funded by the proposed quarter-cent tax. Key projects in the 2015 Capital Improvement Sales Tax proposal include:
An $11.9 million project that would increase the stretch of Forum Boulevard from Chapel Hill Road to Woodrail Avenue from two lanes to four lanes. The project also could replace Forum Boulevard’s bridge over Hinkson Creek.
A $280,000 project to install bus shelters at CoMO Connect bus stops throughout the city.
An estimated $10.5 million in replacements for fire department apparatus, including fire trucks.
$4.5 million in renovations to the Grissum Building, which houses several of the Public Works Department’s services.
The $9.69 million Phase 1 of the Municipal Service Center North project, which involves plans for a new police station.
The $2.74 million Phase 1 of the Municipal Service Center South project, which includes a salt dome, garage and fueling station.
If included on the August ballot, the proposal would serve as a 10-year extension of the Capital Improvement Sales Tax, which passed in 2005. The current sales tax is a quarter-cent sales tax that yields $6.3 million per year adjusted for inflation, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Money left over from the other projects could also fund a $2.69 million project to build shoulders along Ballenger Lane from Ria Street to Mexico Gravel Road and up to 45 traffic-calming projects, such as speed bumps, throughout the city.
Some council members expressed concern about how the funds would be distributed throughout the six wards.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he was concerned that the majority of the projects focused on the Fifth Ward and seemed to overlook the city's other wards.
"I think we have to think about equity in terms of how each ward spends the sales tax's money on the projects," Skala said.
In response to Skala's comment, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said the 2005 tax largely overlooked her ward and its infrastructure needs, saying that of the 16 projects covered by the current sales tax, only three projects were in the Fifth Ward.
"We waited close to 18 years for Scott Boulevard," Nauser said. "Driving down Scott used to be like driving down a country road, but now, there are thousands of homes along Scott Boulevard."
Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas also questioned the amount of funding allocated to the Forum Boulevard project. Thomas said that the project was "grossly overfunded" and that it would go against the push for residents to use transportation methods other than cars, a main part of the city's comprehensive plan, Columbia Imagined.
"In all of Columbia Imagined, there's nothing about big roadways," Thomas said.
The Forum Boulevard project was originally estimated to cost $13.7 million, but City Council and staff agreed Wednesday to decrease the project’s funding by $1.8 million and allocate the money to the proposed traffic-calming projects. City Manager Mike Matthes also set apart an extra $800,000 for the traffic-calming projects. Matthes said city staff had not been aware they had this money when drafting up the first list of projects.
The City Council will vote on the finalized project list at its meeting Monday night. If the council approves the list, the proposal will be placed on the August ballot.
Supervising editor is Joe Guszkowski.