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Columbus looks at going to referendum to form storm water utility
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Columbus looks at going to referendum to form storm water utility

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Stormwater Utility referendum discussed in Columbus

The creek that runs through Fireman's Park in Columbus is calm on Wednesday but severe storms have caused the water to go over the banks of the creek and run into yards and homes in the area. Columbus City Council discussed on Tuesday the possiblility of going to referendum to help pay for the costs of work on the waterway in order to help protect the residents' homes.

COLUMBUS – Columbus could soon go to referendum to form a storm water utility, which would help finance work done on the water system that is surrounded by the city.

Columbus City Administrator Kyle Ellefson said during Tuesday night’s Columbus City Council meeting that a storm water utility would create a sustainable option for financing projects being looked at on the Crawfish River, but it would be need to be discussed and approved by the council.

“If you don’t go to referendum, the funds would come directly out of the levy with more money coming from taxpayers than state aid,” Ellefson said.

A storm water utility operates like an electric or water utility and can collect fees related to controlling. It may collect fees used to fund a municipal stormwater management program. Other communities, including Beaver Dam, added storm water utilities before the state required taxpayer approval by residents.

The concern comes while Columbus City Council is looking at what to do to control flooding around residents homes due to the Crawfish River. The council has discussed improvements to the area around Fireman’s Park, which has had the most serious storm water issues. The council received six options that would cost between $300,000 and $1.8 million to improve that area.

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Columbus City Council Alderperson Shelly Albright said she supported the storm water efforts that were being discussed in the second ward, but she was concerned it might cause additional problems in the city and asked for an elevation study and asked if the water issues would always be a problem.

“It will always be a risk,” Columbus City Engineer Jason Lietha said. “We have water that runs through our town that is close to structures.”

Lietha said he would not be able to predict what would happen and there would be no way of knowing when or if a larger storm event would happen in the area. However, a survey of the elevation could be done.

Many ideas came up including changes or removal of Udey Dam. No motions to the discussion were made Tuesday.

Columbus City Council President Ian Gray said the best thing they could do was to keep the storm water out of Columbus’ waste water system.

Lietha will come back to the city with what is learned through a study of the waterway in the next month.

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