Columbia Leadership Council holds forums to inform residents and ask for their opinions

May 12, 2014

The government of Columbia is continuing to try and clear up questions about the future of the city.

The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council Infrastructure Sub-Committee hosted two public town hall forums on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon.  

Credit File / KBIA

At these forums, the committee presented its goals and visions for various parts of Columbia’s infrastructure, followed by a session of questions from Columbia residents.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine and the subcommittee are concerned by the loss of confidence in the government by the general public. He said that anytime the word “infrastructure” is something on everyone’s mind, it means that the loss of confidence has reached a certain amount of intensity.  St. Romaine said the meetings were important for the government to regain trust among residents.

“I think we have a great community here in Columbia, Missouri. We have a very engaged community and often times we have diverging points of view and so we have to come together as a community to try and build that consensus,” St. Romaine said.

Even with the committee stressing the importance of the future planning in Columbia, not all citizens came away convinced.  Community member John Clark says one of the committee’s main issues is that they aren’t actually planning for the future.

“They no more have the capacity to think long term than the man on the moon. Not because they’re stupid. Their entire focus is digging themselves out of the hole they’re in today, and that is not a good place from which to think about the future,” Clark said.

Clark also noted that these holes were not necessarily built by the current members of the local government, but by past bad decisions.

One of the main issues facing the city is the poor condition of the city stormwater pipes. When it rains hard, these pipes allow rainwater to combine with the water used by residents, which also causes backups. Director of Public Works John Glascock focused on the poor quality of the storm water pipes in Columbia. He says economic issues and a lack of public backing have stopped this issue from being resolved

“Inflation has eroded our ability to fix what we have to fix and so as we go forward, people don’t understand why they should care about storm water and the impact it has on our daily lives, such as flooding and water coming down the streets,” Glascock said.

Glascock’s major goal for the cracked and worn down pipes is to repair them by adding an extra layer to the pipes to prevent the rainwater from combining with the clean water that goes to residents’ homes.

Glascock said that any rate changes, which haven’t been decided yet, would be included in a service report requested by the city. He said that he will have a draft done by this summer and a final copy ready before the city budget is set in October.

With the sessions now over, the leadership council will draft a document for city council detailing what the city should plan for in the next 20-50 years and how to pay for it. A final copy of the report will be finished in the fall of this year.