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THE CoMo RUN-AROUND: Two months later, City Hall fairness advocate can't get records about development fees

"We are confident The Den was charged, and has paid for, the correct connection fees..."


COLUMBIA, Mo 4/1/15 (Beat Byte)
--  Two months ago, Columbia fairness advocate and Ed Robb Public Service Award winner Bill Weitkemper asked questions about sewer connection fees -- a development charge -- of public works communication officer Steve Sapp.  

Weitkemper found discrepancies, questionable entries, and flat-out errors in city spreadsheets related to a new student apartment, The Den.  At first glance, it looks like City Hall grossly undercharged The Den -- and other customers -- to connect to city sewers.   

The email chain below starts with a March 29 alert to City Council members, candidates, and the media, going back in time to Feb. 16. 

City Hall wants voters to approve two large utility rate hikes -- for electric and stormwater service -- next Tuesday.   But if Weitkemper's experience is any guide, voters may be once again asking:  What in the world is city government doing with our money?

 

From: Bill Weitkemper   billweitkemper@....
Sent:  Sunday, March 29, 2015 8:16 AM
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subject:  Fwd: Sewer Connection fees

On Jan. 31, I requested the annual sewer connection fee revenue by customer classification for each of the previous 10 years.   The city should not have a problem providing this information.

Bill

From: Bill Weitkemper   billweitkemper@....
To: "Steven Sapp"
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2015 9:01:57 AM
Subject: Re: Sewer Connection fees

Steve,

Did you hear anything from legal and did you determine anything on the 30+ questionable entries from the previous pdf file you sent?


Bill

From: "Steven Sapp"
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Sent: Monday, February 23, 2015 9:52:48 PM

Subject: Re: Sewer Connection fees

Mr. Weitkemper,

We have some additional records...however we need to have legal take a look at them.   I've asked them to do s
o and will let you know when they advise we can release. 

Regarding the charges similar to deposit fees, all of those accounting entries are being reviewed.

Regards,

Steve


Steven Sapp
Public Information Specialist
City of Columbia
Public Works Department
(573) 874-7217 (office)
Columbia Missouri Public Works
www.GoColumbiaMo.com/PublicWorks

Facebook.com/ColumbiaMissouriPublicWorks
@pub_works on Twitter
youtube.com/PublicWorksColumbia

"Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future." ~ Walt Disney --


On Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 11:43 AM, Bill Weitkemper wrote:

Steve,

Have you been able to check with Building/Site Development and Finance to determine if there were additional sewer connection fees collected as part of the permitting process, or if the PDF file (attached) you previously sent is a complete record of sewer connection fees collected since May 27, 2008?

In addition to the four charges that I questioned -- which you indicate were inadvertently placed in the system --  a further review of the PDF file shows several other questionable entries.

There are at least 30 entries of between $30 and $988 that do not match any of the sewer connection fees established by ordinance. 

Could you provide an explanation for these charges?

As I previously indicated, since sewer connection fee revenue is a separate budget line item, I would think sewer connection fee revenue would be tracked and available by fiscal year, as well as in Excel format.

Thank you in advance for any further assistance you can provide.

Bill


Quoting Steven Sapp:

Dear Bill Weitkemper,

Thank you for bringing those postings to our attention.  After investigating, those four charges were deposits which were inadvertently placed in the system.   We are in the process of moving those four postings to the correct accounts.

The actual and correct charges for all of the buildings in The Den were posted correctly later in the document we sent.  We are confident The Den was charged, and has paid for, the correct waste water connection fees associated with the building(s).

Sincerely,

Steve


On Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 1:02 PM, Bill Weitkemper wrote:

Steve,

I have some questions on Sewer Connection fees you forwarded. 

The ordinance states that each new user of the wastewater system shall pay a wastewater system connection fee. The fee shall be one thousand two hundred dollars ($1,200.00) per dwelling unit

If there are uses on the property other than dwelling units, the new user of the wastewater system shall pay a wastewater system connection fee based on the size of the water meter that shall serve the property in accordance with the following table:

Size of Water Meter in Inches.....Connection Fee
5/8 .....$1,200.00
¾ .....1,800.00
1 .....3,000.00
1½ .....6,000.00
2 .....9,600.00
3 .....19,200.00
4 .....30,000.00
6 .....60,000.00


Can you check and explain how these connection fees were determined for four properties on Grindstone Plaza (The Den)?

1408 Grindstone Plaza ... $225
1412 Grindstone Plaza ... $250
1414 Grindstone Plaza ... $60
1416 Grindstone Plaza ... $125

Thank you.

Bill

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