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GLADIATOR: CoMo city manager spars with public about sewers, student housing

Calls opposition to student apartments "shortsighted and foolhardy"
 
COLUMBIA, Mo 4/15/14 (Beat Byte) -- Reacting to sustained public opposition over student apartments, bad sewers, and his failed TIF plan to fix downtown infrastructure, Columbia city manager Mike Matthes is taking off the gloves to spar with his critics. 

The 3,600 people who signed a petition to walk back approval of a six-story downtown student apartment are "shortsighted and foolhardy," Matthes told KOMU last week.  "Some folks, including [petition organizer] Jeremy Root, have said they don't want any more students," Matthes continued.  "I am puzzled how you could feel that way in a college town." 

Breaking a year-long email silence with retired Columbia public works supervisor Bill Weitkemper, Matthes responded to one of nearly 100 messages Weitkemper has sent to city administrators and City Council members about longstanding problems with the city's stormwater and sewer systems, particularly in the central part of town. 

"As City Manager, you are responsible for the proper management of the city.   You are also Mr. Glascock's supervisor," Weitkemper emailed earlier this month, referencing public works director John Glascock.   "Mr. Glascock should be held accountable for a history of poor management decisions and for using public money improperly." 
 
"Those are pretty heavy accusations you make there," Matthes responded.  "I have looked into them and find nothing that supports your statements.    In fact, John is an excellent executive level manager; transparent, responsive, honorable.   I know of no one who cares more about keeping sewage out of our creeks and homes than John Glascock.  He has my complete confidence."

Weitkemper filed an April 4 complaint with Missouri Department of Natural Resources water protection chief John Madras about the Council's approval -- and pending approval -- of downtown student apartments "that will significantly increase the wastewater flow entering the Flat Branch sanitary sewer system, causing additional pollution and further contamination of Flat Branch and Hinkson Creeks." 

To discuss the complaint -- and City Hall's plans to alleviate sewage backups and spills -- Weitkemper has been requesting meetings with Matthes, Glascock, and Council members since late last year.   Until now, however, Matthes had not responded. 
 
"I will be reaching out to you soon to set up the meeting you have asked for," the city manager emailed Weitkemper.  "My hope is we can begin a more constructive conversation than we have had."
 
 
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