The controversial Henderson Branch sewer line has been put on hold again — at least for now.

In an effort to get the project back on the agenda before 90 days, Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp requested at Monday's Columbia City Council to move up the deadline to bring the project back before the council. The council deadlocked 3-3 on the project during a May 21 meeting at which First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin was absent.

Trapp's attempt Monday failed 4-3 when Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters changed her vote, saying the council needs more time to consider the project. If Trapp had succeeded and a first reading on legislation to authorize the project would have been approved, the council would have voted on the sewer line in August. It will still be considered in about 90 days, which Trapp formally requested June 4.

Mayor Brian Treece and council members Ian Thomas, Peters and Karl Skala voted against bringing the project back for first vote next month.

Skala, who represents the Third Ward, wanted the project to be tabled for 90 days to see if the city could reach some common ground with MidwayUSA owner Larry Potterfield, who has threatened to leave the city if the $4.3 million sewer line is not built. The project would extend sewer service to the Midway area, including Potterfield’s firearms and accessories business, and includes annexation of MidwayUSA and other businesses properties in the area.

Skala said when residents voted in favor of a bond issue in 2013 from which the sewer is being partially funded, the ballot language did not mention the Henderson Branch sewer extension, which was estimated to cost $2.6 million at the time. Skala said he suspects the eventual cost could exceed $5 million and has pushed for Potterfield and MidwayUSA to put up part of the money to pay for the project.

While a list of projects was not on the ballot, the city had a public hearing in which a list of bond issue projects was presented before the council put the bond issue on the ballot. The Henderson Branch extension was part of that list..

Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer pointed out many things in the 2013 ballot approved by voters have already been funded and felt the sewer project should be funded, too.

Skala also said this would be the first time the city and council considered a sewer program that is not in the city's boundaries

The project has been in the works for several years and has divided council members. The council last November postponed a final vote because the estimated cost had increased.

Potterfield has threatened to move his company if the project is not approved and supporters have touted the sales tax revenue the business could add to city coffers if it's annexed. However, property owners between the city limits and the Midway area have not requested annexation, leaving uncertainty about when and if Midway would officially become part of the city and start contributing tax revenue.

mmaresh@columbiatribune.com

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