Infighting breaks out before first meet
COLUMBIA, Mo 9/9/15 (Beat Byte) -- Rancor in the ranks is riling Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid's Infrastructure Task Force weeks before its first official meeting Sept. 14.
The quarreling -- between City Council and Task Force members -- started shortly after Fourth Ward City Councilman Ian Thomas emailed Task Force member John Conway asking whether he would support expanding the group's scope of work to include all four utilities: water, electricity, sewer, and storm water.
Council members earlier voted to limit Task Force investigations and recommendations to the sewer and stormwater utilities, comparative small fries on the infrastructure plate. By size and revenue, the city's water and light utilities are far larger, taking an ever-increasing chunk out of local pockets.
City Hall has a monopoly on every utility except natural gas.
Conway -- a retired engineer and member of the city's Water and Light Advisory Board -- considered the issue settled, and fired back a few days later in an email cc'd to his attorney, William McCaffree.
Thomas responded that his email "did not 'usurp' anybody's rights" nor "issue any 'idle threats'. I simply mentioned that I had discussed the idea of expanding the scope of the task force with Mayor McDavid, Mr. Trapp, and Mr. Kelly," none of whom presently support such an expansion.
"I'm sorry that you feel my contact was inappropriate," replied Weitkemper, a retired Columbia public works supervisor who worries that leaving out the city's two largest utilities will leave the Task Force with few impactful recommendations.
"Columbia desperately needs to identify additional sources of utility revenue," Weitkemper wrote Council and Task Force members and reporters. "The city cannot continue increasing utility rates to generate the revenue needed to repair and improve its deteriorating infrastructure. The city’s utility rates must be structured to reward conservation, not consumption and must be fair to all users."