City leaders have yet to touch money raised from a fee charged to developers for closing streets, sidewalks and parking spots downtown.
The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance in Dec. 2016 charging developers by the linear foot of the public facilities it closed for construction. The ordinance states that that money can be used for infrastructure improvements, such as alleys, sidewalks or streets.
Records obtained by ABC 17 News show that the city has so far collected $39,112.43 from those fees, but has spent none of it. City records show that it has $23,489.33 for parking repairs, $10,515 for sidewalk repairs and $5,10790 for street repairs.
Downtown Leadership Council chairman Scott Wilson told ABC 17 News that it may be time to revisit the use of the inconvenience fees. Right now, fees for road, sidewalk or parking lane closures are earmarked to repair those specific things. Wilson said money could also be used to help put up signs telling people how to get around those closures, or advertising for businesses that may appear closed due to the construction.
Wilson said the city should also consider ending the fee exemption given to government agencies, such as public utilities.
Wilson and the DLC discussed the public inconvenience fee in 2017 when the owner of Coley's American Bistro complained about the lack of notice on the progress of a sewer project that closed the street in front of the business. Wilson said the city should be more proactive in considering uses for the money as the closures go on.
"For any project that would affect small businesses downtown, the DLC thinks that money needs to be spent as the projects come up, and not just six months later or a year later," Wilson said.