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MU saves thousands on storm water utility discount

The University of Missouri saved more than $26,000 on its storm water utility bill because of a 40% discount the City of Columbia grants it, according to new numbers obtained by ABC 17 News.

The university receives a discount for maintaining its own system of pipes and street inlets, according to MU spokesman Christian Basi and Columbia Public Works engineer Erin Keys. In the university’s fiscal year 2014, the city billed it $51,460. After the discount, MU paid just $30,876.

Subtracting its payment to the City of Columbia, Basi said the school spent $399,341 on maintenance costs related to storm water.

“There’s a boundary that includes the University, and they maintain that storm water infrastructure within that boundary,” Keys said of the work the school performs.

City leaders proposed a discount in early March to the Columbia Public School Board for its storm water utility, as well. City Manager Mike Matthes told the board it could qualify for providing public education on storm water issues. The district could get as much as a sixty percent discount.

“The idea was to propose to the school district that they would provide some specific and concrete education to their students, and the details would still have to be worked out,” Keys said. “In exchange for that, their rate would get reduced.”

The Clean Water Act requires cities with populations greater than 100,000 people provide services related to storm water and its effects, such as public education and outreach. The city, university and Boone County all own a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit, and have to develop a storm water management plan.

“As part of that permit, we are required to do education and outreach,” Keys said. “To let the public know that anything that goes in the storm drain goes to the creeks. That’s what damages our infrastructure, is the additional runoff from our development.”

Columbia voters will decide on raising the storm water utility fee on April 7. Titled Proposition 2 on the ballot, the fee would rise each year through the next five years. Residential rates are based on the size of the property, and commercial properties currently pay four cents for every 100 square feet of impervious surface, with a minimum rate of four dollars a month. By raising the rates, Keys said the city will be able to perform several more storm water infrastructure fixes in town. Many of the corrugated metal pipes the city installed in the 1960s and 1970s are reaching the end of their lifespan, Keys said. As more fixes become necessary, the rate to pay for them has stalled. The rate, which only affords seven employees to physically perform the fixes, has not changed since its introduction in 1993.

Keys said she didn’t know if homeowners could qualify for a similar discount for providing any of the six requirements from the Clean Water Act, because not many have asked.

CPS Budget Director Linda Quinley told ABC 17 News if the district went through with the discount, she estimates if voters approved the fee increase, it would cost CPS $66,321 through five years. However, the discount would reduce it to $39,793.

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