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STRIKING NEW DATA: Show reduced need for CoMo stormwater utility rate hike

Do more with less before raising taxes and rates

COLUMBIA, Mo 02/03/15 (Beat Byte) -- Striking, newly-released data adds more credence to what utility billing fairness advocate Bill Weitkemper has been saying since the Columbia City Council announced more utility rate increases with voter consent. 

"There are many ways that revenue can be increased significantly without increasing monthly utility rates," Weitkemper emailed Council members Jan. 19.   He also included two charts that show two trends:  increased productivity among sewer maintenance personnel and decreased sewer repair and replacement work

In April, voters will decide whether to increase storm sewer, water, and electric rates.  Electric, water, sewer and other utility rates have risen remarkably in just four years.   Council members hiked rates in 2010, again in 2011, and almost every year since. 

Stormwater impacts the sewer system by leaking into faulty pipes and basements.  But as the data Weitkemper provided shows, fewer complaints and a vastly improved sewer system have reduced the need for rate hikes to reduce stormwater problems

An "Annual Maintenance Summary" from 1966-2012 shows a thirty-year period of heavy sewer replacement in Columbia, peaking in 1996 when city workers replaced 5,812 feet of sewer line

In 2012, that number had fallen to 844 feet, after drifting in three-digit territory for years. 

Over the same period, public complaints about sewer overflows, mostly into basements, dropped from a high of 248 in 1966 to only seven in 2012.   During each decade, sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) and water in basement (WIB) complaints have fallen, from an average 155 per year during 1966-75 to 16 per year from 2006-2012, the last year data were available. 

As repair and replacement work has diminished, sewer department staff have switched to maintenance mode, with marked increases in sewer cleanings and TV camera inspections.   A second chart shows sewer workers doing more maintenance with fewer people.  

In 1976, the city had 17 miles of sewer main per employee.  That number reached a high of 55 miles per employee in 2008, and began falling as the city hired more workers.  It stood at 36.8 miles per employee in 2012. 

Urging Council members to "significantly reduce expenses," Weitkemper explained that City Hall "incorrectly equates a supervisors pay with the number of employees supervised." 

Instead,"the city should be looking for supervisors who can accomplish the same, or more, with fewer employees.  

"The goal should be to accomplish more with less."


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