COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia voters heading to the polls Nov. 5 will see a nearly $33 million sewer bond issue.
The money will be used over the next five years to fix broken pipes, replace outdated lines and dig new manholes.
This will help basements from flooding and toilets from backing up, which were problems some Columbia residences faced last year.
The money will not be coming from taxpayers' pockets, but instead user fees. Essentially, anyone paying a utility bill will be affected because the sanitary sewer system is for toilets, laundry and dishwashers.
Therefore, utility customers' bills will increase by $3 a month and be spread out over the next five years.
"We need to be fixing and repairing our sewers at a faster rate than we are right now," said Erin Keys with the Columbia Public Works Department.
Public Works officials say a third of the pipes in Columbia are more than 75 years old. However, the materials used to make and sustain those pipes have an average lifespan of only 50 years.
"We either need to line the pipes where we put a real thin liner on the inside and can do that without digging it up," said Keys.
With the use of cameras, Columbia Public Works crews can see exactly where cracks and leaks are in the pipes. From these images, they have found serious problems especially when it's raining, with a large amount of storm water getting into the system.
"And when that happens it backs up the sanitary sewer system. It overflows the manholes in the streets and can also back up into people's basements," said Keys.
Keys says it's not a matter of if these improvements will happen, but when.
"If it doesn't pass, in order to do the same improvements, we've proposed here we would need to increase the rates 38 percent," said Keys.
That means bills would increase $9 a month over the next five years instead of the $3 with the ballot issue.
The bond will be on the Nov. 5 ballot in Columbia and only needs a simple majority in order to pass. In fact, this issue is the only item on the ballot, meaning this decision could be determined by a low voter turnout.