Despite resistance and personal challenges, Robb award winner stays on task

COLUMBIA, 7/2/12 (Op Ed) -- If any one person has shed a light on the dismissive, unresponsive attitude toward the needs of average constituents in favor of local fat cats, it's Bill Weitkemper, the ultimate City Hall insider.

Pushing past health challenges and his own organization's grinding resistance, Weitkemper -- a City of Columbia public works maintenance supervisor who this year won the inaugural Ed Robb Public Service Award -- continues a years-long quest for fairness in all things sewer and stormwater.

The most striking thing about his work -- detailed in well over a hundred emails -- is how completely he lays out the facts, only to have the Columbia City Council, city manager Mike Matthes, and public works director John Glascock completely ignore them.

That may be because Weitkemper has repeatedly challenged the status quo, recently weighing in on a brewing controversy about stormwater, particularly in the central city.

"Significantly undersized," central Columbia's stormwater system is 80-110 years old and in "terminal condition," says Weitkemper, a nearly 40-year veteran of City Hall charged with supervising sewer and stormwater maintenance work. Fees collected to improve the system have been misappropriated for years, he recently alleged.

Despite the dire picture Weitkemper paints, he doesn't want average users overcharged to replace the system. He wants larger users fairly charged. In Columbia, where bending over backward for every big fish in the barrel is gradually killing smaller fish, large utility users are unfairly under-charged for their utility usage, Weitkemper has steadfastly claimed.
Just charging the city's 10,000 largest users the same base sewer charge everyone else pays would generate nearly $1 million more dollars in sewer utility revenue, he claims, negating the need for yet another sewer rate increase. Adding a "significant storm water development charge that is triggered by an increase in storm water runoff from a property," Weitkemper says, would help fund much-needed storm water repairs.
So far however, Weitkemper's solutions have been greeted with stone silence from elected representatives and other city leaders.