The Columbia City Council voted to change proposed water rate increases beginning Oct. 1 at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
The action came after the Board held its second public hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget, which will be formally adopted at its September 19 meeting following a final public hearing.
Council unanimously approved a motion by Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer directing staff to prepare a water rate bill amendment to increase rates by 24 cents per CCF (one hundred cubic feet) for all levels and add a two dollar increase to the base rate when the second round of bonds from the 2018 issue is sold.
The city’s chief financial officer, Matthew Lue, said approval for the bond issue could come by December.
The original staff proposal was to increase the basic water charge by 10%. There would also be an increase of up to 30% for residents depending on their level of use and a 15% increase for commercial buildings.
During its annual budget process, Council approved all 34 amendments it received from City staff.
There were 47 potential amendments to the fiscal year 2023 budget. Staff submitted 34 amendments and Council members submitted 13. Eleven of these came from First Ward Councilor Pat Fowler, most of whom did not not been adopted.
Staff and Council proposed amendments on public service assistance. The city has set aside $300,000 for utility assistance this fiscal year. The original budget called for $100,000 to be invested in utility assistance, but city staff recommended adding an additional $200,000 to keep funding at the same level.
In his amendment, Fowler suggested the city could look at properties where residents regularly need help to see if those properties could benefit from energy efficiency upgrades. Fowler withdrew his amendment on the understanding that the city would move toward improving energy efficiency.
Personnel changes covered topics such as funding for job training programs, a civic engagement pilot program, hybrid vehicles and a portable shower trailer.
The Career Awareness Related Experience program, part of the Department of Parks and Recreation, asked the city for $26,500 to place 10 student interns in Columbia Public Schools classrooms during the summer term. The trainees would discover the profession of teacher.
Responding to a question from Fowler, city staff said interns will be paid $12 an hour, which will be the state minimum wage when the program begins.
Columbia resident Susan Renee Carter said the city should pay CARE interns the city’s minimum wage of $15 an hour, particularly because the CARE program works with at-risk teens.
Another amendment requested $10,000 for the Civic Academy Pilot Program, a six-week initiative proposed by City Manager De’Carlon Seewood that will teach 23 Columbia residents about city government. Fowler suggested adding a pre-test and a post-test to the program that would allow the city to track the effects of the program.
Another amendment requested funding to purchase hybrid trucks to replace conventional vehicles used by several city departments. Seewood said the city decided to invest in hybrid vehicles because they weren’t much more expensive than conventional vehicles.
Staff also requested $110,000 for a portable shower trailer. City staff explained that the city would serve homeless residents.
City staff also indicated in the staff changes how they wanted to distribute the increased monthly sales tax revenue collected in fiscal year 2022. Almost half would go to the general fund and the rest would go to in the sales tax fund for capital improvements, parks sales tax. Fund and the Public Improvement Fund.
Fowler has proposed a number of other amendments, ranging from funding a mobile mental health unit to creating a new position in city government that reports information from boards and commissions, which have not been adopted.
Columbia resident John Conway, an engineer who served on the water and light advisory board for 28 years, told the council about his concerns about the lack of action on new power lines. Conway has advised for years that new transmission lines will help ensure the reliability of Colombia’s power grid.
The advisory board completed a report on the need for new transmission lines in September 2016. Conway said he revisits the report annually.
“I don’t know how many times I’ll have to go through it again before I come to a conclusion,” Conway said.
SHSMo vs. MyHouse
Gary Kremer, director of the State Historical Society of Missouri, called on the council to revoke permits given to the MyHouse nightclub and Rader Hospitality to hold outdoor concerts in downtown Columbia. Kremer said he signed a downtown district cooperation agreement with Rader Hospitality in late June “in the spirit of trying to be a good neighbor.”
However, Kremer said Rader Hospitality failed to live up to its end of the deal: Access to the section of Locust Street leading to the State Historical Society parking lot was blocked Aug. 19 by barriers erected by Rader Hospitality, Kremer said. State Historical Society employees had to move the barriers themselves, Kremer said. The next morning, Kremer said the barriers caused the State Historical Society to unexpectedly close for the day.
In addition to citing high noise levels, Kremer added that Rader Hospitality placed more than two dozen port-a-potties at the north end of the State Historical Society parking lot, “forcing our employees and customers to face the sight and stench. ”
He asked the Board to deny any future requests for outdoor events hosted by Rader Hospitality.
Dan Rader, owner of Rader Hospitality, responded to Kremer, saying there was access to the State Historical Society’s parking lot and assured the Council that his company honored all agreements. City staff said they also felt there was appropriate access to the land.
The board approved a resolution moving the date of a scheduled MyHouse concert from August 22 to October 12. Approval is contingent on Rader Hospitality meeting all safety requirements and Columbia Fire Department inspections.