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Jefferson City Council denies putting stormwater utility fee to a city-wide vote

The Jefferson City Council denied a bill Monday to put a stormwater utility fee on the August ballot.

After a heated debate between council members that lasted more than half an hour, the bill failed by a close 5-4 vote. The bill’s sponsor Larry Henry was not present at the meeting.

ABC 17 News has reported that the public works committee and staff recommended a monthly fee that would help address the growing stormwater and flooding issues across the city.

Right now, there is more than $30 million in stormwater improvement needs across the city, according to Public Works Director Matt Morasch. The proposed fee would have increased the city’s stormwater budget from $360,000 to $2 million a year.

Council members argued for both sides of the bill.

Those in favor said something something needs to be done soon and that residents have pleaded for months for a solution to the growing issues such as flooded homes and streets, collapsing rusted pipes and sinkholes.

Those against said they thought many residents did not know enough about the issue to get enough voters to the polls in August to pass the measure. They also said it may be too soon to ask taxpayers for more money after the bond issue to build a second public high school passed in April.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ron Fitzwater, who voted against the bill, said he hoped to work with other city leaders to look for ways to increase stormwater funding in the upcoming year’s budget.

“Are there ways that we can cut back in other areas?” Fitzwater said. “Because there are folks in our community that are significantly impacted, and I think we need to put dollars into that. … If that is not a solution, that gives us some time to educate the public.”

The cost to put the stormwater utility fee on the April 2018 ballot would also be less costly than holding a special election in August, according to city officials.

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