Columbia Chamber: Infrastructure upgrades must be priority

Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce has called for action and accountability on Wednesday in the wake of badly needed repairs to the city’s water and sewer system.

“The city has held off on replacing or repairing the water and sewer lines, some of which are more than 50 years old,” the chamber said on Wednesday in Columbia. “Nearly $4 million a year was transferred from the water and sewer revenues to the general fund.”

Having been deemed in violation of the Clean Water Act in 2013, the city agreed to pay approximately $750 million in assessments and repairs within 12 years, along with a $476,400 penalty.

The Columbia Chamber conferred with Mayor Steve Benjamin on multiple occasions regarding fiscal responsibility, with an eye toward advocating for taxpayers’ needs. Consequently, the mayor has called for half a dozen actions to address the infrastructure’s weak links and provide fiscal sustainability: removing the $4 million general fund transfer from water and sewer revenue; initiating a 2 percent public safety transfer from water and sewer revenues; reducing the proposed water and sewer rate; raising the SCANA Franchise Fee; rolling back a $2 million city property tax; and promoting the Community Development’s Maintenance Assistance Program to provide grants for a variety of maintenance programs.

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