A controversial planned sewer extension project that was blocked last month will appear before city council again in late August.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp requested last week that the Henderson Branch sewer extension be added to the council’s agenda once the mandatory 90-day waiting period after its rejection expires.
The project would extend sewer services to the Midway area west of the city. It would lay the foundation for future annexation of several properties, including arms retailer MidwayUSA and the Midway Truck Stop and Travel Plaza.
The project started in 2013 with a $32 million bond approved by voters, which set aside $2.3 million for sewer extensions.
The estimated cost of the Henderson Branch project later rose to $4.3 million, with the Boone County Regional Sewer District promising to contribute around $600,000 and the city paying for the rest.
“It’s important to follow through on your promises,” Trapp said Monday. “I’m sorry to have seen it drug out so long.”
Trapp cited environmental concerns due to the existing wastewater infrastructure in the area and the potential sales tax revenue of the properties as reasons to support the measure.
Last month, MidwayUSA owner Larry Potterfield renewed threats to move the company and its approximately 350 jobs out of state if the project did not go through. He said his company’s sewer system will soon be out of compliance with wastewater treatment regulations, and that the Boone County Regional Sewer District doesn’t know how to bring the system into compliance.
A tie vote at the May 21 council meeting meant the sewer line and pre-annexation agreements could not move forward. First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin was absent, but had voted in favor of the project before.
At that meeting, Trapp had asked that the issue be tabled until Ruffin returned, but the motion failed.
“It’s an important issue,” Trapp said. “There’s questions about fairness, there’s questions about employment, and he brings an important voice.”
In order to annex a parcel of land, it must be contiguous to city limits. The owners of the properties separating Midway and Columbia refused to sign on to annexation agreements, so the council could only vote on pre-annexation agreements for the Midway properties. Until the city could get the property owners to annex, they would not be able to collect sales tax revenues on the businesses.
Mayor Brian Treece had previously voted in favor of the extension, but was the deciding “no” vote on May 21. He cited the lack of an annexation agreement at that point as the reason for his change in vote.
“That’s simply not fair to Columbia taxpayers,” Treece said. “We need to take care of what we have before we bite off more than we can chew.”
Treece said that unless new facts come to light regarding the annexation or cost of the project, he will continue to oppose the measure.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas have been consistent opponents of the sewer extension. Trapp, Ruffin, Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters have consistently voted for the measure.
The 90-day waiting period ends August 19. The item could be reconsidered as early as August 20 at the scheduled council meeting.