COLUMBIA — The future of roll carts for trash collection, a ballot issue to extend the one-eighth-cent sales tax for parks and the first of three public hearings on the city budget for fiscal 2016 were among the top issues on the Columbia City Council's agenda for Monday night.
Not on the agenda, but also discussed, were recent comments made by Columbia Police Officers' Association Executive Director Dale Roberts. Residents Traci Wilson-Kleekamp and Tyree Byndom referenced Roberts' Aug. 9 "Darren Wilson Day" Facebook proclamation, saying the post set back race relations in Columbia.
They weren't alone in speaking out against Roberts' conduct: Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said the police union head had a history of "sexist, racist and divisive comments."
"We all sit here in this room and have the opportunity to do something about it," First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin said.
While City Manager Mike Matthes said he still opposed Roberts' "gaffes," he did retract his earlier statement that he would not put forward new taxes to hire more police until Roberts stepped down or was removed from his position.
City staff has outlined four options for how to proceed or not with a conversion to roll carts for trash collection. The council accepted a report outlining those options, which include retaining the current bag system, switching to a pay-as-you-throw roll cart system citywide, switching to a pay-as-you-go bag system citywide, or adopting a hybrid system that would allow residents to choose between roll carts and bags, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The staff is recommending the city move ahead with roll carts but urged the council to wait 120 days while members of the Solid Waste Advisory Group try to gather enough signatures to block roll carts or put the matter to a public vote. Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said the question whether to change the trash collection system would likely be put to a vote.
Earlier in the meeting, during scheduled public comment, Jill Raitt and Michael Byrne spoke in favor of roll carts. Raitt said she used roll carts while living in St. Louis and liked the experience.
"I can't wait to get roll carts, especially the combined recycle, which is wonderful," she said.
Mary Sapp, speaking on behalf of Solid Waste Advocacy Group, brought the opposite sentiment to the meeting. After handing out fliers titled "Why Roll Carts Are A Bad Idea," she said voters had made it clear that they didn't want to change the trash collection system.
Sapp's flier said that 92 percent of respondents in a 2014 city survey indicated their satisfaction with the city's trash collection service and raised issue with the potential difficulty presented to roll cart users by weather and slopes.
Several residents spoke at the first of three public hearings on City Manager Mike Matthes's $441.8 million budget for fiscal 2016. Monday's hearing actually dealt with several bills related to the budget, including measures to address parking fees, solid waste rates and property taxes.
The council is scheduled to approve the budget after two more hearings to be held at its September meetings. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
In unveiling the proposed budget, Matthes called it "A Tale of Two Cities." He was referring to racial disparities in income and employment, as well as statistics that showed minimum wage employees to be 30 percent poorer than they were in 1968, with inflation taken into account.
"We do have a moral imperative not to turn our back on our fellow citizen," he said.
PARKS SALES TAX
Council members voted unanimously to place the one-eighth-cent sales tax for parks on the Nov. 3 ballot. If voters approve it, it would extend the tax by six years and generate $18.4 million, according to a staff report. It also passed a resolution listing the projects the tax would finance if approved. The biggest projects include:
- Annual major park maintenance: $1.1 million.
- Sports Field House: $2.7 million.
- Annual Land Acquisition: $1.775 million.
- Perche Creek Trail, linking MKT Trail to Gillespie Bridge Road: $1.2 million.