COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Bill Weitkemper spent nearly 40 years in Columbia's sanitary sewer utility, most of it as maintenance superintendent.
His background and knowledge from overseeing the utility's maintenance give him a familiarity with the city's sewer problems that other candidates don't have.
EDITOR's NOTE: Weitkemper submitted answers to questions via email.
Family: Married 40 years; six children, Debbie, Nita, Aaron, Lori, Jana and Amy; 16 grandchildren
Education: Missouri State Teachers College in Kirksville
Occupation: Retired; former draftsman; former maintenance superintendent of Columbia sanitary sewer utility
Previous political experience: Ran for Fourth Ward council seat in 2013
What do you think of the city’s new trash pickup procedures?
There are still many problems with the present system, inferior bags, trash bags and recyclables being left on the curb at residences, residential trash being put in apartment complex dumpsters and commercial dumpsters, trash scattered along streets and many (student) residents especially in the Sixth Ward, at least judging from the pictures in the newspaper, using the wrong bags.
The city indicated the reason why they stopped picking up curbside recycling last winter was because of a lack of staffing. The Street Division doesn’t stop plowing snow because of a lack of staffing. The city reassigns qualified drivers from other departments to assist with snow removal operations when there is a lack of staffing. The lack of staffing was a “red herring” created by management. The city trash collection crews have by far the most physical job in the city. There is no more demanding job than picking up bag after bag weighing 50 pounds or more. It is much harder than picking up the previously half-full bags.
Would you support using roll carts?
Roll carts should be put back on the ballot for a vote of the people.
What is Columbia’s greatest infrastructure need?
I believe the city of Columbia desperately needs more police officers and firefighters. Many Columbia residents are very concerned about violent crime and do not feel safe in their own homes. Columbia also needs another fully-staffed fire station in order to cut response times to all locations in Columbia to an acceptable level.
I would take advantage of Article XII, Section 102 of the City Charter and transfer all surplus revenue from FY 2020 from the Water and Light Department budget into the General Revenue Fund. I asked Sheela Amin how much surplus revenue the Water and Light Department had in FY 2020 but to date, she has not responded. I believe it is about $2.5 million for electric and $500,000 for water.
EDITOR's NOTE: Weitkemper also said an improved sanitary sewer system is the city's greatest hard infrastructure need.
Do you agree with city leaders’ approach to the coronavirus pandemic?
I think the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been very good. One area of improvement that could have been made, that was likely due to a lack of staffing, was to have had better enforcement of the mandates, like mask-wearing, and to have eliminated all the private gatherings and parties consisting of large groups of people, especially around the holidays.
Columbia and Boone County was fortunate to have had an experienced, dedicated, and professional staff to guide us through this COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, I think Director Stephanie Browning and her staff have done, and are doing, a very good job. I have had the opportunity to talk to several small business owners during the past year and not one has complained about the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in my opinion, the job will not be done until the county of Boone has no COVID-19 related deaths for six months. The Health Department must now concentrate on convincing everyone to get vaccinated and to continue following all the recommended precautions and mandates before declaring victory over COVID-19.
Has police community outreach worked?
Not very well.
Do you think the city needs a comprehensive audit?
There are many, many, ordinances that have either been incorrectly applied or just simply ignored by city staff.
The CEO of the present firm hired to audit the Finance and Utilities Departments (RUBINBROWN) stated that the city’s ordinances were “overly detailed,” and that the ordinances “do not easily allow management the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing environments.”
How “overly detailed” is ordinance 27-111. – Electricity (an ordinance since 1964)
“Each residential dwelling unit must have a separate meter through which electricity supplied to the unit shall be measured for billing. Metering of electricity supplying more than one unit through a single meter (master metering) is prohibited.”
By 1967 management was exercising “the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing environments” by allowing “master metering” of residential dwelling units, if the units were constructed on property that was zoned commercial.
There is an ordinance that defines a residential dwelling unit in the city code. However, there has never been an ordinance that defines a “commercial” dwelling unit in the city code.
Stormwater Ordinance 12A-151 states “. . . where there is no water, electric, sewage, or refuse collection utility customer for a parcel of developed land, the stormwater utility charge shall be billed to the property owner.” Is that ordinance “overly detailed.” In my 26 years of owning and managing 63 rental properties, I never received a stormwater charge for a vacant unit. Was management “exercising the flexibility necessary to adapt to changing environments” by not billing the stormwater charge?