COLUMBIA, Mo 9/10/18 (Beat Byte)
-- When the Columbia City Council last week rejected the so-called Henderson Branch sewer extension
, "they ignored the original vote to build the project approved by almost 80 percent of voters," former Columbia Tribune owner Hank Waters wrote Sunday
But that's not necessarily true. Columbia voters did not approve the 1.6 mile Henderson Branch sewer extension per se
when they voted 80% in favor of a $32 million November 5, 2013 ballot measure
Public comments at a May 2018 Council meeting bear this out. "Some people had no idea what they were voting for five years ago," Peggy Fletcher said
. "I wouldn’t have voted for this."
News reports about the ballot measure mention the Henderson Branch once, in a chart of eighteen proposed projects
; and a citizen committee charged with selling the idea focused almost solely on improving Columbia's existing
At best, the ballot language left open the possibility
of sewer extensions. No individual extensions were listed, by name, location, or price. City officials estimated the Henderson Branch would have cost over four million dollars to construct, primarily benefiting Midway's two largest business owners, Larry Potterfield
of MidwayUSA and Joe Bechtold
of the Midway Truck Stop.
Known as Proposition 1
, the ballot asked voters, "Shall the City of Columbia, Missouri issue its Sewer System Revenue Bonds in the amount of Thirty-two Million Three Hundred Forty Thousand Dollars ($32,340,000.00) for the purpose of constructing, improving, repairing, rehabilitating, replacing, equipping, expanding, and extending the City-owned sewerage system
With a YES vote, voters would "authorize the City to fix, establish, maintain and collect rates and charges for the use and services provided by the City through its sewerage system, including all improvements and extensions
thereto hereafter constructed or acquired by the City."
Finally, the ballot authorized the city to pay off the bonds -- a form of debt -- in 25 years.
City manager Mike Matthes
and then-public works director John Glascock
introduced the measure as Council Bill B194-13
in July 2013, calling for a special election. "If approved by voters, the bonds will be used to complete capital improvement projects for the city's existing sanitary sewer collection and treatment systems, and to pay for the City's share
of sewer line extensions, in accordance with city policies."
Potterfield and Bechtold decided the "city's share" of their sewer extension was almost one hundred percent, with Boone County contributing just over six hundred thousand dollars. Their contribution: zero.
Council members have rejected the project twice, each time followed by a Potterfield threat. The arms accessories manufacturer threatened to move his business to Texas after Council members voted 3-3 to deny the project in May; he threatened to run for Mayor of Columbia last week
Matthes' staff report lists projects the $32 million bond would finance: "replacing private common collector sewers; inflow and infiltration reduction projects; repair and rehabilitation of manholes and sewer lines; extending main sewer trunk lines in developing drainage basins; eliminating wastewater treatment facilities that discharge into city creeks; and upgrading the city's wastewater treatment facility."