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Columbia residents will vote on bond issue for sewer repairs

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Columbia voters will decide next Tuesday whether to approve funding to maintain and repair the city's aging sewer system. 

Some of Columbia's sewer lines have aged past the century mark, but Columbia Public Works engineer Erin Keys says they weren't designed to last 100 years.  

"We know that those sewer lines have a life expectancy of anywhere between 40 and 80 years," Keys said.

Keys says if voters don't pass a $32.3 million bond issue on Nov. 5, the city will have to raise customers' rates 38 percent to pay for the repairs. 

If they do pass the bond issue, rates would increase by an average $3 per month over the next five years. Former Columbia sewer maintenance supervisor Bill Weitkemper says voters should reject the bond issue.

"The city's billing practices are not equitable," Weitkemper said. "The master meter at the apartment complexes and commercial properties are receiving a substantial discount on sewer service."

Weitkemper says these locations should have individual meters to save costs and ensure customers pay their fair share.

Weitkemper says he doesn't believe the city will be able to make good on its promise to reduce inflow and infiltration. A large chunk of the bond funds are dedicated to reducing it.

Keys says some improvements to the sewer system will be implemented nearly immediately if voters approve the bond issue. 

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