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Columbia city council discusses public safety at add-day retreat

One day after a heated Columbia city council meeting, council members gathered for an all-day retreat.

They discussed downtown infrastructure, development, utility needs, and public safety.

Although no decisions were made or votes taken, councilwoman Laura Nauser believed they made good progress.

“We were all here until 1 a.m. at the council meeting and all back this morning to talk about issues important to the community, and it shows how dedicated we are to keeping Columbia safe and happy,” she said.

Council members discussed both the wants and needs for public safety in Columbia. And the discussion always turned back to the budget constraints.

City manager Mike Matthes said the city doesn’t have the budget to keep up with three new police and firefighters a year.

“We’re challenged because of substantial pension legacy that is consuming a lot of the budget,” Mayor Bob McDavid said.

Council members discussed solutions to funding but didn’t decide on anything.

Police Chief Ken Burton spoke to council and said he wanted to use technology to lessen the work load on police officers. For example, the technology would allow people to report petty theft or minor car accidents online rather than having police come out for them, allowing police to work on big crimes.

Columbia Fire Chief Chuck Witt also spoke to council and talked about the need for new fire stations to better serve Columbia in times of emergencies.

Nauser told council about the survey Youth Anti-Violence Task Force just distributed to local jail inmates. She said it would help city leaders find out more about deterring crime.

“Where are you going to better information than going directly to those involved rather than speculating on perceived issues,” Nauser said. “Ask them what was missing, why did they commit those crimes?”

Council is expected to wrap up their two-day retreat on Wednesday at noon, and will vote on the downtown developments after.

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