The Jefferson City Public Works and Planning Committee on Tuesday approved using a $750,000 supplemental appropriation to hire additional staff to focus on improving and maintaining the city's stormwater system.
Last month, the Jefferson City Council approved a supplemental appropriation of $750,000 to address stormwater problems and maintain the infrastructure. The council asked the Public Works department to present ways to use that money, and Public Works Director Matt Morasch presented two scenarios Thursday to the Public Works and Planning Committee.
Morasch's preferred recommendation is to hire an additional Street Division construction crew with a focus on neighborhood stormwater projects, like improving inlets and cross-road pipes, at a cost of about $250,000. The remaining $500,000 would be combined with capital improvement sales tax stormwater funds — $360,000 — to go toward an engineering design contract and three design/bid/build projects, which are projects the city needs to higher contractors for.
The second option did not include hiring new staff, with the entire $750,000 allotment going toward an engineering design contract and four design/bid/build projects, which include addressing issues on Chickadee Road and from Schellridge Road to Huntleigh Place.
"City staff believes that much more stormwater work can be accomplished with an in-house construction crew (and in a shorter period of time) than utilizing all the funds to go toward our traditional design/bid/build projects," Morasch said in a memorandum to the committee.
The first option would be cheaper in the long run, Morasch said, because engineering and administration costs would be almost eliminated with several projects fixed in-house. Contractor up-costs and equipment costs also would be eliminated.
The committee approved the first option, sending it to the City Council for final approval.
Several council members said they thought the first scenario was the best way to maximize the supplemental appropriation.
"This is basically the first step in trying to put a remedy on a huge problem that we have regarding stormwater here, and I think scenario A gives us the maximum way to use those funds in a way we can do some effective projects," 5th Ward Councilman Larry Henry said. "A lot of what we see is in these neighborhoods, especially with these homes, usually there's an inlet somewhere at the corner of a block or something that ultimately affects two or three different homes, or maybe even more than that. And scenario A seems to address that and be one of the better way to maximize those funds."
If the council approves the new crew members, Morasch said the budget would be modified to include the positions. Funding these positions for future years is not guaranteed, though.
"We can't tell what the economy is going to do in the future; budgets are difficult in nature, and we hopefully will have the money next year to fund these positions," 1st Ward Councilman Rick Prather said. "If not, we're going to have to find the money or maybe even have to eliminate some things in order to compensate for it."
Ward 2 Councilman Rick Mihalevich voted against sending the additional crew option to the City Council. He said while he supports putting more funds toward stormwater infrastructure and finding a consistent funding source, several unknowns still surround the 2018 fiscal year, one being the use tax — a sales tax on goods purchased by Missouri residents from out-of-state vendors in which the purchaser pays the tax instead of the seller.
In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court said cities can collect sales tax on out-of-state motor vehicle purchases only if the cities have local use taxes — so Jefferson City must either receive voter approval to continue the sales tax on out-of-state motor vehicle purchases or pass a use tax.
The deadline to enact a local use tax is November 2018. Mayor Carrie Tergin said the City Council will discuss placing the use tax on the April ballot at a future meeting.
If the city doesn't continue the out-of-state vehicles sales tax or pass a use tax, it will no longer receive sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchases, resulting in a loss of $240,000 annually, Finance Department Director Margie Mueller said.
"We have a problem with potentially losing a quarter of a million dollars out of our budget for next year if we don't find a replacement for that funding source," Mihalevich said. "I just really don't want to go with purchasing staff and then a year from now saying, 'Well, I'm sorry, but we have no revenue source for you, so we're going to have to make a tough decision.'"
The Jefferson City Budget Committee just passed the city's 2018 fiscal year budget, so Mihalevich, who chairs that committee, said he wants to discuss with Mueller and City Administrator Steve Crowell how amending the 2018 budget would impact the overall budget and other departments.
Morasch suggested if the city develops a new revenue source for stormwater, then the additional staff could be funded by that revenue source. The committee said they supported finding a new revenue source for stormwater problems.
Morasch estimated the city would need about $2 million annually to be proactive in addressing stormwater issues.
Lincoln Street update
Also during Thursday's meeting, City Engineer David Bange said he will soon present a timeline for fixing South Lincoln Street, where a section of the street collapsed after a stream bank slide caused settlement in the pavement in early May. The street is on a bank about 30 feet above Boggs Creek.
Bange said bids on the project are due Oct. 3. After the city picks a contractor, the department will present the contract to the City Council for approval, possibly Oct. 16.
If City Council votes and approves the project Oct. 16, the contractor could start as soon as Oct. 23. Bange said the start date could be delayed if the city does not receive a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which approves applications regarding work involving certain waterways.
The project would take about 50 days, meaning it could be completed in late December.