Columbia City Council to discuss homeless cooling station, renewable energy | Local


The Columbia City Council will review a letter at its regular meeting Monday from the Downtown Community Improvement District requesting the council no longer use Wabash Station as an emergency homeless shelter in times of excessive heat or frigid temperatures.

Writing on behalf of the District Downtown CID Board and “concerned business owners, employees, property owners and residents,” Executive Director Nickie Davis said homeless people have created a “hostile environment for our businesses, their customers and our residents.”

Davis said the station — one of the only emergency shelters that occasionally offers 24-hour-access to warming and cooling — isn’t an “acceptable place for long-term camping and sheltering” and requested the city revoke the ordinance allowing Wabash to open as a shelter during the winter months.

The group is also the city to increase police presence downtown and find a suitable location outside The District with “proper resources to be assigned to help those in need as soon as possible.”

It also requested that police work with 311 and The District to create a monthly safety report for the downtown area to help inform businesses and the public of crime statistics.

Located at 126 N. Tenth St., the station is part of Columbia’s effort to ensure access to overnight emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Renewable Energy Plan

The council will also hold its annual public hearing for the 2022 Renewable Energy Plan.

The energy mandate renewable, approved by voters in 2004, directed Columbia Water & Light to increase renewable energy sources through 2029.

The 2022 Renewable Energy Plan, which shows how the city would comply with the ordinance, was released in late January. City staff reported that 14.6% of the city’s energy load for 2021 came from renewable sources.

The plan has been reviewed by the Water & Light Advisory Board and the Climate & Environment Commission. It now needs a public hearing and a final vote from the council.

Virtual meetings

On the consent agenda, the council will vote on an ordinance that could enable virtual attendance and participation for certain advisory boards and commissions.

In November, the council passed a six-month trial period for virtual meetings for the Broadband Task Force, the Youth Advisory Council and the Disabilities Commission.

At the end of the July 5 meeting, council members discussed implementing virtual attendance and participation for board, commission and council meetings. First Ward Councilperson Pat Fowler requested that audio recordings of meetings for council members and the public also be part of that discussion.

Requesting $22.5 million for utilities

The council will also consider an ordinance to amend the fiscal year 2022 power budget, which is currently about $64.3 million. City staff has requested an additional $22.5 million due to higher energy prices, market volatility, reliability and weather events.

Surveillance software

Staff has also prepared for the council to consider a contract with Fusus Real-Time Crime Center system, a company that provides surveillance software to police departments. Police would be able to access any linked camera asset and review video footage. It permits access to body cameras, drones, public and private cameras and “other feeds throughout the city on a permission-based level.”

This would give police “immediate access” to video feeds while still being able to respond to emergency situations in an effort to combat crime in downtown Columbia.

The three-year contract, which would be paid upfront to save $60,000, would be reevaluated at the end of this period to consider renewal of the program.

Should a renewal be requested and approved, it would be factored into the police budget at roughly $125,000 annually.

Sidewalk Master Plan

The council will also hear the reviewed Sidewalk Master Plan report, approved in 2013. First reviewed by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission in early 2020, this strategic plan promises “reliable infrastructure” and a secondary impact of “safe neighborhoods.”

On June 9, the Disabilities Commission reviewed the plan and proposed no changes. The commission did, however, voice interest in involvement while establishing the plan’s priorities.

According to the city’s website, a public hearing phase with the Planning and Zoning Commission is planned for later this summer, with a commission work session in August kicking off the process.

ARPA Survey Results

The goal of the survey was to “to identify disproportionate impacts on individuals, households, businesses and nonprofits and to collect feedback regarding the community’s prioritization of the American Rescue Plan Act funding,” according to a staff presentation.

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