The Henderson Branch sewer extension to the Midway area ain’t dead yet.
Although the Columbia City Council in May defeated the $4.3 million project, a resolution setting another public hearing for Sept. 4 on whether to move forward with the work won the approval of the council at its Monday meeting.
Ordinances authorizing the project — the city’s purchase of easements to build the sewer line and separate annexation agreements with Bechtold Properties; owners of the Midway Truck and Travel Plaza; VH Properties, owned by Larry Potterfield of MidwayUSA; and the Fritz Family Gift Trust — were introduced Monday night and will come up for public discussion and a vote on Sept. 4.
The proposed annexation of the Fritz property is a new development in the long-running debate over whether to build the sewer line. If the city annexes the 31.5 Fritz acres defined in the agreement, it would make the Potterfield land and MidwayUSA contiguous with city limits.
The Fritz property lies along Route UU and West Van Horn Tavern Road just east of the Potterfield properties, according to a council memo. The Boone County assessor’s website shows the Fritz family owns hundreds of acres in the area. The family trust is listed as being in the care of the J. Louis Crum Corp., and the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office lists Donald R. Fritz as the corporation’s president.
Neither Fritz nor Potterfield could be reached for comment Monday.
The sewer project would extend a 1.6-mile main west from Columbia and would serve the entire 1,300-acre Henderson Branch watershed, including MidwayUSA, the truck stop and surrounding businesses and properties.
Potterfield has pressed the city to extend the sewer because the small wastewater treatment plant that serves his business is unable to comply with increasingly stringent requirements of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Missourian previously reported that Potterfield, CEO of MidwayUSA, threatened to move the company — which sells guns, ammunition and shooting accessories — out of Columbia if the sewer extension is not approved.
The council in May 2017 voted to move ahead with design and construction of the sewer line, but a bill authorizing the city to move forward by calling for bids failed on a 3-3 vote by the council on May 21.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas and Mayor Brian Treece voted against the sewer in May, while Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp, Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters approved it. First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin was absent.
If the council approves the sewer project this time around, the annexation agreements would require that Fritz and Potterfield allow their properties to be annexed as soon as the project is completed. Bechtold’s properties would be annexed as soon as they become contiguous with city boundaries.
The sewer extension was approved by voters as part of a $32 million sewer bond issue in November of 2013. Some residents and council members later worried that the project would take priority over sewer work intended to fix problems in older parts of the city.
The estimated cost of the sewer line also has ballooned since it was listed in the bond issue as a $2 million project.
Supporters of the sewer line say it would promote orderly expansion to the west and eliminate small treatment plants that are polluting streams. They also say the sales and property taxes the city would collect from the annexed businesses would cover the cost of the sewer line over time.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp said before Monday’s meeting that he supports the annexation agreements and the sewer line. The agreements, he said, would allow the collection of sales tax and “look pretty solid.”
The Boone County Regional Sewer District has agreed to chip in up to $628,000 on the project.