City Council News Roundup — 1/17

Perhaps eclipsed in visibility by the buzz surrounding Gov. Jay Nixon’s State of the State, City Council met Tuesday evening to consider items, including a increased lodging tax and snow clearance routes, comprising a hefty docket. Here’s what you missed while you were caught in the political crossfire:

Downtown license fee tax repealed

A special tax applied to downtown businesses’ license fees was repealed in the transition of governing bodies at the helm of The District. Though downtown businesses have been paying the relatively minor tax for years, executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District Carrie Gartner said the repeal aims to relieve some of financial burden on Columbia businesses. Read more…

New fitness track at West Junior High may receive city funding

The Columbia Public School District requested authorization to apply an annually appropriated sum derived from the 2010 Parks Sales Tax to the reconstruction of the fitness track and field at West Junior High School. The resulting ordinance mandates that the new facility, which West Principal Sandra Logan said was of much higher quality than its predecessor, will be available for public use when not in school use. Read more…

Council seeks 3 percent increase in lodging tax

Mayor Bob McDavid called for immediate efforts to advance a bill through the Missouri General Assembly that would grant the council authority to increase Columbia’s lodging tax by 3 percent with voter approval. The language of the proposed legislation has no specifications for the use of the estimated $1.5 million in additional yearly revenue, but McDavid identified a $17.1 million renovation of a “totally non-ADA compliant” terminal at Columbia Regional Airport as his top priority. Read more…

Greyhound asks to use Wabash Station

Greyhound Lines, Inc. is commissioning the city of Columbia for use of Wabash Station in an effort to cut operating costs. The request received largely positive feedback from both the council and members of the public, though issues of hours of operation and space were discussed. A contract negotiation is pending and will be brought before the council for approval upon completion. Read more…

District taxi stands a success

City staff introduced a proposal to make downtown taxi stands, the products of an early 2011 pilot project, permanent. Citing problems in visibility and motorist compliance, the district has also recommended the installation of signs and checkered curb paint. Read more…

Humane society funding faces opposition

Two annual funding contracts with the Central Missouri Humane Society were moved from the consent agenda at the request of No Kill Columbia representatives. The first provides $120,280 for animal control services, while the second grants the humane society an additional $20,000 in staggered increments for veterinary services, such as sterilization and vaccination.

In makeshift public hearings, No Kill Columbia asked the council to delay ratification of both contracts for 60 days in order to appeal to CMHS on issues of space efficiency and the inclusion of area veterinarians in their spay and neuter voucher program.

Both contracts were passed, but the council expressed interest in performing additional evaluations of CMHS’s activity to ensure funding is being used appropriately.

Snow removal remains hot topic

Sidewalk snow removal was discussed at length following the introduction of a report compiled by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission ranking Columbia streets by clearance priority. Several concerns surfaced, including the downtown focus of the map, what to do in the case of deteriorating sidewalks and the potential for disabled homeowners along high-priority streets.

The council considered two solutions.

Touting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s example, Councilman Fred Schmidt expressed a desire to temporarily employ citizens to clear sidewalks in snow emergencies. The length of the stretch to be cleared, 31 miles, would be problematic to this proposal.

McDavid, on the other hand, praised “the culture of volunteerism” in Columbia. According to the Volunteer Hour Report, 50,000 volunteer hours were logged by Columbians in 2011. He suggested turning to neighbors and ourselves in times of snowfall.

“We can do this as a team,” McDavid said.

The council has requested a citywide map of priority sidewalks from the BPC and will in the meantime encourage volunteerism among the citizens of Columbia to ensure accessible sidewalks during winter weather.

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