2017-06-16 / On Second Thought

ASK US AT THE STAR

I want to know more about the proposed utility rate hikes proposed by the City of Columbia for its water and sewer customers.
Compiled by Warren Hughes

Columbia City Council is considering water, sewer, and stormwater rate changes for the upcoming fiscal year. These increases would support an $80 million annual investment in the city’s sewer system, a $40 million annual investment in the water distribution system, and a $93 million investment in the city’s stormwater system over the next five years. Customer bills will potentially increase beginning July 1, 2017.

On June 20, the City of Columbia Utility Department will hold an open house 4–6 p.m. at City Hall, 1737 Main Street. Customers can learn how their monthly bills might be impacted. Representatives will be on hand to review accounts and explain potential impacts to monthly bills.

The city plans to use $93 million from increased fees to reduce flooding throughout the city.

The projects over a five-year period include the downtown intersection of Main and Whaley streets, the Shandon neighborhood, and the Five Points entertainment district, Penn Branch in east Columbia, and the Harlem Heights area in north Columbia.

Work is expected to begin in the next two to three years. Preliminary work will include designs, permitting and property acquisition. In all, there will be more than 20 projects.

There will be approximately a $5 increase in stormwater fees for customers in the coming year, raising the average bill to $11.80 from the current $6.80. In each of the following four years, they’ll pay an extra 6.25 percent. By the end of the five-year stormwater improvement program, the average household will pay a roughly $15 stormwater fee.

Columbia water and sewer customers both inside and outside city limits can expect increasingly higher bills for the next several years, starting with a 4.75 percent increase in the coming year, about an extra $2.50 a month for water and sewer service for the typical in-city household.

Those fee increases are going toward the $120 million in water and sewer infrastructure improvements across the city, including the installation of new automatic water meters over the next several years.

As an ongoing outreach effort, the city holds a series of after-hours water billing drop-ins to give water and sewer customers the opportunity to meet with customer care representatives after normal business hours to ask questions about their water bills. The next meeting for this purpose will be July 12, 2017 from 6–7:30 p.m. at the Eau Claire Print Building, 3907 Ensor Avenue. Customers may drop in anytime during the session.

For customers wanting to conserve water for summer gardens, free rain barrels are still available for city residents. Workshops are scheduled for users to learn about their use. Upcoming sessions are July 8 at Greenview Park and August 12 at Woodlands Park.

For details, contact Jennifer Satterthwaite at (803) 545-0184.

We want to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to mimim@thecolumbiastar.com or pams@thecolumbiastar.com.

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