City considers options to fund downtown infrastructure repairs

Student housing proposals could be on track for August 2015 development.

The City of Columbia is considering methods of financing downtown infrastructure improvements but has no firm plan yet.

Tony St. Romaine, assistant city manager, said the city was considering several different funding options.

“We are still working very closely with some of the developers that were identified as being on hold right now because of the lack of the infrastructure,” St. Romaine said.

City Council documents present several options. Scenario A would include options such as raising costs of water, electric and parking. In Scenario B, building fees would increase to create an impact over the long term. Scenario C would postpone capital improvement projects like road and sidewalk construction. In Scenario D, the city would choose to place a financing option like a sales tax on the ballot.

“These are all mechanisms to raise revenues and that could be used to support some of the public infrastructure projects,” St. Romaine said.

Eight projects slated for the downtown area are on hold because of various infrastructure issues. Columbia’s sewer is not ready for any of them, according to the city. Six projects are ready to build and three are still being decided, including MU’s plan to tear down Laws Hall.

St. Romaine said the city is working with developers to see if the developers can contribute to some of the infrastructure costs of construction.

“If we can reach agreement on some of those issues in the very near future, we will draft development agreements outlining what the responsibilities are of both the city and the developer, in terms of moving forward with some of those infrastructure improvements,” St. Romaine said.

Members of city council will be meeting for a two-day retreat to attempt to solve infrastructure problems and other city issues.

“A lot of that time will be dedicated to talking about some of these issues,” St. Romaine said. “Hopefully (we’ll make a decision) sooner rather than later.”

Another issue will be the development timeline for these projects, St. Romaine said.

St. Romaine said he’s hoping the projects, which include several student-housing developments, will be able to be built by August 2015.

“(August 2015) seems like a long way away, but certainly from the scope of the work they have to do, getting a contractor on board and actually constructing all the necessary improvements and facilities they are proposing, 18 months is really not a long time,” St. Romaine said. “We, the city, have to be in a position to support their project when they apply for a certificate of occupancy by next August.”

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