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A person would have to be a recluse not to realize the downturn in the economy during the past few years. As we started to look at Boone County’s budget situation, it became clear that we had to make some adjustments. Local governments have four choices as I see it: change the business model (you can’t do what you have always done the way you have always done it), cut services, raise revenues (increased fees and/or taxes) or a combination of all of the above.
The commission, along with the other Boone County elected officials and department heads, has been very careful with the public’s dollars. We chose to make changes to the business model and to continue to plan and work smarter. Boone County’s current modus operandi is to increase partnerships, especially as it relates to intergovernmental cooperation. One of the ways we have made significant improvements is to develop partnerships or cooperative agreements with the city of Columbia, quasi-governmental agencies and our state and federal government representatives.
One of our top partnerships relates to storm water issues. In 2001, the county became part of the Clean Water Act, Phase II implementation cycle. We were encouraged to get a joint permit with the city of Columbia and the University of Missouri. Nearly all of the major watersheds in our area cross municipal boundaries, which include land in Columbia and areas outside of Columbia. Separate storm water processes might have lead to incompatible sets of development guidelines that would have undermined the effectiveness of the storm water programs.
This joint storm water permit, known as a MS4 and the Hinkson Total Maximum Daily Load, requires the permit holders to act as one. This partnership showed its strength this year when, as a group, we challenged the current drafts of the MS4 and TMDL developed through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency. At this time MDNR is responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act on behalf of EPA. If we didn’t have this partnership, each jurisdiction would be paying for separate water quality studies and separate attorneys.
Another current local effort relates to Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps. In 2005, we were informed that updated flood maps would be created. When the maps were released, we found that FEMA’s changes to the outdated 1967 US Geological Survey maps included only minor changes. The maps did not show the changes in course that many streams and the river had undergone with increased development during the past 43 years.
US Sen. Claire McCaskill and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer have used their resources to assist local jurisdictions in trying to resolve the many issues surrounding the use of outdated maps. The city of Columbia and Boone County have improved their aerial photography to capture 2-foot contours. We believe that this new data should be included to give us a more accurate base map to determine flood protection. Our goal is to prevent our citizens from unnecessarily spending their dollars to prove that they aren’t in the flood plain.
Just this month, the commission adopted the new Boone County Hazard Mitigation Plan. The Hazard Mitigation Plan is a federal requirement for every county and city in the country to be eligible for FEMA prehazard mitigation and post-disaster mitigation grants. There were 15 jurisdictions that participated in developing the plan, including the county, nine communities, six school districts, two colleges and one university. It was an opportunity for representatives to evaluate our preparedness in relation to 10 natural hazards, such as flooding, dam failure, sinkholes and tornadoes. The committee developed strategies to mitigate areas known to be a hazard or a continual problem, such as the need to raise the Katy Trail to act as a levee during flood season in Rocheport.
This is the only community that isn’t protected by levees close to the river. When there is a flood threat, the county hauls and places jersey barriers and sand to raise the trail. The city of Columbia organizes volunteers, the Boone County Fire Protection District manages the sand bagging effort and the Emergency Management director oversees the whole reimbursement effort, and the county cleans it up again. It is a waste of funding when it could be prevented permanently.
The Regional Economic Development Inc. partnership has the opportunity to become our greatest success story for intergovernmental partnerships. REDI brings together a team of local and state government officials, representatives from the University of Missouri, area colleges, the MO Department of Economic Development, MO Partnership and others that represent what our community has to offer. The success of this group is in the attraction and securitization of new business, the expansion of existing business and the diversification of our economic base.
I predict that even when the economic situation improves, these partnerships and established business practices will continue as a matter of course.