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      Another sewer problem closes downtown Columbia road

      Park Street closed in downtown Columbia Thursday / Bryan Cox

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Park Street in the downtown Elmwood Park neighborhood was closed Thursday due to a sewer line repair beneath the road.

      It's the latest incident in a string of closures plaguing city streets as officials work to replace aging pipes and infrastructure.

      Last month a cracked water main downtown cut off water to an entire block of businesses in the Vista. City crews worked from dawn to dusk to repair the line; in addition to cutting off water the repair caused delays for motorists.

      City Council voted unanimously in June to approve raising water and sewer rates five percent to pay for more than $100 million in upgrades to the city's water and sewer system. The rate hike will increase the average monthly bill by about $2 for city residents and $3.43 for customers outside the city, according to Columbia officials.

      City sewers have spilled more than a million gallons of untreated water during the last six months, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. That's more than any other water system in the state.

      Columbia's proposed water-and-sewer rate increase is included as part of the city's proposed FY 2011/2012 budget. The budget plan would increase city general fund spending more than 7 percent to $115,201,254. It contains funding for 39 new police cars, a ladder truck for the fire department, 12 heavy trucks and various technology and software upgrades.

      The budget does not contain a property tax increase. It also excludes city workers from a cost-of-living salary increase for the third consecutive year.

      What do you think about the proposed spending plan? Do you support an increase in water and sewer rates to support improvements to the city's infrastructure? Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.